Yesterday morning we woke up to the news that ZBC is broke (insolvent.) OK those among you who are surprised please raise your hands. I wonder what the management expected. Strangely enough the Deputy Minister for Information, Media and Broadcasting services Honourable Supa Mandiwanzira was “shocked” when he discovered that ZBC’s books were this bad. This is like expressing shock when a decapitated man dies – it should be a known and logical outcome.
A lot has happened since I penned my missive to the minister of ZBC several months ago. It turns out the minister of ZBC is also known as the minister of Information, Media and Broadcasting services and his name is, (drum roll) Professor Jonathan Moyo. Ostensibly upon receipt of my letter the Honourable minister was spurred into action and started by dissolving the board and sending the CEO Happison Muchechetere and Finance Manager Retired Brigadier-General Elliot Kasu on forced leave. The minister then roped in the Comptroller and Auditor General to do an audit of the institution.
It turns out the workers have had it rough there no wonder some of them resorted to smoking mbanje. Workers have gone for the past 6 months without pay and are owed $8.3 million. ZBC is raking in $275,000 in income per month instead of the budgeted $2.3 million ( I wonder how they come up with this figure! ) of which $1.6 million must go to salaries. I also wonder where all those licence fees that the police and ZBC personnel collect at road blocks go.
In what appears to be good news, the Herald reported that the broadcaster is in negotiations with some financial institution to get a loan. It is hard to envisage a local institution lending this money to the broadcaster considering the very real risk of default. I therefore surmise that this loan might be coming from a foreign investor – who is, considering the state of the books here, either a genius or crazy.
It seems to me for the past couple of years the channel has actively been trying to chase and anger viewers using a parochial mix of boring programs, archaic programs, incessant jingles at every break and ancient equipment that should be in museums now. Officials there kept trying to tell us what we should watch as if we are senile. It seems the powers that be at ZBC have woken up from slumber. Ironically the minister in charge is the one who many blame for triggering the demise of the entity in the first place.
A lot of people now have satellite dishes but there is still hope: I for one like local content. I love my country and culture as do a lot of people. As a piece of advice to those tasked with bringing about this turn around I would quote Warren Harding, “There should be less government in business and more business in government.” ZBC should be run like a business in much the same way that parastatals like the BBC are. They are funded in part by the government but also rake in a lot of income through other means such as advertising and licence fees.
There can only be sustained improvement in the institution’s health if they employ experienced hands on deck – people with actual experience and qualifications to fill in the jobs otherwise all those handouts will be for nought. There is also need for heavy Capital Expenditure to buy modern technological equipment that is actually from this century. To ensure the broadcaster remains honest it should be required to publish regular accounts at least annually to avoid any more “surprises” in future.
The other thing that the state broadcaster needs, in my humble opinion, is to actually air content that people want to watch. Only then can they attract serious advertisers since currently a lot of income earning groups hardly ever tune into the channel. Otherwise any “shots in the arm” they will receive will do them no good. One can hardly be expected to inject life into a corpse after all.