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PPC Report on The State of the Public Media in Zimbabwe (S.C. 10, 2006)
First report of the Portfolio Committee on Transport Communications
First Session Sixth Parliament, Parliament of Zimbabwe
Presented to Parliament on May 31, 2006

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Executive summary
The Committee in its over sight role enquired into the activities of the parastatals that fall under the Ministry of Information and Publicity. The institutions that the Committee looked into included the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings (ZBH) where the Committee investigated the
restructuring exercise that had been undertaken to transform it from one company, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC). The Committee held interviews with management, workers committees and staff of Zimbabwe Television, National FM, and Newsnet who are housed at the Headquarters at Pockets Hill, Radio Zimbabwe in Mbare, and SPOT FM in Bulawayo.

The Committee also assessed the transmission services that are provided by Transmedia Corporation and the licensing of players by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe.

The Committee also assessed the operations of media houses and looked at the following state owned newspapers, the Herald and the Chronicle. The Committee also enquired into the turn around strategies and plans for recapitalization for New Ziana.

The Committee was not impressed by what it saw at Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings. Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings was experiencing problems that emerged out of the unbundling exercise. The new organization had nine operating companies and each one was led by a Chief Executive Officer. In the new structure some of the companies like Power FM and Radio Zimbabwe successfully adapted to the new environment. Unfortunately, the bulk of the companies who include SPOT FM, National Radio, Zimbabwe Television, Newsnet and On Air Systems were failing to cope in the new set up. The new thrust was profit driven but the faltering companies were burdened by social obligations that required that they cover national events that normally resulted in losses to these companies. Some of the problems emanated from inter-parastatal debts that had accrued over the years and were not being settled and others were inherited from the Ministry of Information and Publicity as part of the restructuring exercise. Your Committee observed that ZBH had no resources; material, human and financial, to engage in a project in the form of National Television. The Committee advised ZBH to revise their plans and hence the indefinite shelving of the project.

The Committee noted that the ZBH had invested heavily in the 5 million Euro Iranian facility that made possible the digitalization of Zimbabwe Television and Newsnet. However, the facility was under utilized as news was only covered for less than one and half-hours everyday.

The Committee identified problem areas that included poor staff welfare, inadequate remuneration that was way below the poverty datum line in most instances, lack of proper worker representations both in decision-making and wage negotiations and an organogram that lacked authority demarcations. At administrative level, the structure was top heavy. The companies lacked capitalization, which resulted in poor programming, resignation of experienced staff and conversely, an influx of novices in most of the companies. The Committee noted that companies that were failing to cope should be merged and that the issue of salaries must be seriously reviewed in line with other organizations and other countries within the region.

The Committee was informed by the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists that they had problems with being regulated by an external body. Your Committee advised them to set up a body that regulates journalists and the Media and Information Commission stated that they had no problems with that arrangement.

The Committee held oral hearings and had written submissions from the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ). It also had audience with other prospective media players, in the form of Radio Dialogue - a community radio in Bulawayo who applied unsuccessfully for an operating license. The Committee learned that the current Broadcasting Services Amendment Act No. 26 of 2001 was prohibitive and made it almost impossible to license new players. The Committee was informed that BAZ had made recommendations to the Ministry of Information and Publicity that would require that amendments to be made to the Act. The Committee was informed that BAZ was looking forward to flighting the new adverts for applications for television and radio stations by June 2006.

The Committee was also informed by BAZ that the only organization licensed to provide transmission infrastructure, Transmedia, had no resources to undertake the erection of transmitters. Therefore, your Committee recommends that the operating license for Transmedia should be rescinded forthwith as it has no resources to fulfill its mandate as the national signal carrier.

The Committee was informed that Zimpapers was operating profitably but major problems had emerged at the Chronicle. The Management at the Chronicle stated that they had no power to make decisions that matter and said that they had a foreign debt that they were failing to pay off that was consuming their profit annually. Generally, the workers committees at Zimpapers alleged that they were being intimidated by the Chief Executive Officer and were being dictated to in the collective bargaining exercises and dispute settlements. Cases of sexual harassment and nepotism were highlighted in parts but evidence gathered was not substantive enough to warrant further investigation by the Committee.

The Committee was informed that New Ziana had problems with capitalization ever since they stopped being allocated funds in the fiscus in 2004. This had resulted in the organization operating on a shoestring budget and lately, they were experiencing personnel unrest. The institution was also stuck with radio transmission equipment and a station in Gweru that they had no license for and could not operate. The main problem that management highlighted was that they had no power to make decisions as most of the decisions were made at a political level and handed down for implementation. The Committee noted with concern the fact that the current management at New Ziana presented a one-page turn around strategy before the Committee. The Committee wandered why the turn around strategy was not presented before the New Ziana board subsequent to it being presented to the Committee. Your Committee concluded that the New Ziana management had shown its inefficiency and incompetence by their presentation, which showed a lack of seriousness on their part.

The Committee recommended that restructuring at ZBH should be done in terms of the old Zimbabwe Broadcasting Company structure and have top structure with four tears headed by: A Chief Executive Officer (first tier), a Directorate (4); Human Resources, Administration and Finance, Broadcasting Services and Business Development (second tier), Heads of Departments: News and Current Affairs, Radio Services, Zimbabwe Television Services, Information Systems, Engineering and Technical Services, Corporate Services, Production Services, and Marketing and Business Services (third tier), and editorial Staff (fourth tier). Transmedia should be incorporated in the new ZBH structures as part of the Engineering department.

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