BY VENERANDA LANGA
PARLIAMENT has recommended that the struggling State broadcaster Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) must be supported through the fiscus and that it must be paid for outside coverage of national events at a rate of $102 000 per event by Treasury.
The recommendation was made by the chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Media, Prince Dubeko Sibanda on Saturday last week in Victoria Falls during the 2020 pre-budget seminar.ZBC has often covered live State and Zanu PF events amid reports that such coverages were not paid for.
“ZBC must be a grant-aided institution and must be supported by the fiscus so that it effectively plays its role as a public broadcaster,” Sibanda said.
“The corporation humbly requested other government departments and ministries to pay ZBC for broadcasting services invoiced and rendered, and a budgetary allocation for coverage of national events may be made available on a cost recovery basis of $102 000 per event through Treasury.
“Currently, ZBC is owed over US$16 million for services provided to other government departments and ministries,” he said.
Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa said she had discussed with Finance minister Mthuli Ncube about the problems at the State broadcaster, including salary arrears.
Sibanda added that whenever Parliament proceedings are screened live on ZTV, it must also have a budget to pay the State broadcaster $102 000 per session for it to be viable so that journalists there get paid a decent salary.
Additionally, the Information and Media committee report said US$2,2 million ($33 million) is needed to purchase a fleet of 60 cars and 13 mini buses for the State broadcaster.
“These vehicles are required for content generation for the 24-hour news channel and the proposed five additional TV channels and 13 mini buses for content generation crew and licence collection operation for the digitisation programme. Two high definition OB (ouside broadcasting) vans are needed to enhance content gathering processes so that they change quality of programming on the single television channel currently running,” Sibanda said.
The committee said a preliminary report by the African Union Election Observer Mission noted that there was need for the State broadcaster to guarantee equal access to all political parties and contestants during elections so that there is balanced reporting and a pluralistic media.
“However, these recommendations were not implemented. The media environment still remains largely polarised. Additionally, Zimbabwe’s public institutions are still far from fulfilling their roles as holders of information that should be released upon request and in the public interests. This risks the Zimbabwe is open for business mantra as business invests and thrives in an environment where relevant information is readily available,” Sibanda said.
The committee said there was need for changes in legislation, technological advancements that will match with the fast evolving digital technology and the need to deal with uncertainties brought by cyber security threats and the welfare of journalists and viability of media houses at a time inflation is fast eroding capital and incomes.