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Committee quiz ZBC boss as BAZ dithers on licensing of new players
August 27, 2007
the acting general manager of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation's
television news was on 27 August 2007 at pains to explain steps
the state-controlled broadcaster is taking to transform into a public
before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport and Communications
during a public hearing on what steps the broadcaster was taking
given its perceived view as a state-controlled media as opposed
to being a public service broadcaster. The Committee held a hearing
at Parliament's exhibition stand at the Harare Show Grounds.
the Committee chaired by Member of the House of Assembly for Makonde,
Leo Mugabe, Mhandu attributed the lack of alternative voices on
ZBC to an acute shortage of financial resources and equipment but
acknowledged that the broadcaster's "perceived bias"
related to television news coverage.
Nelson Chamisa, who is also the spokesperson of the opposition MDC,
said ZBC had for instance failed to cover the 160 meetings and political
rallies held by the party in the recent past illustrating its bias
against alternative voices. Murisi Zwizwayi Member of the House
of Assembly for Harare Central charged that the ZBC even went to
the extent of editing the parliamentary contributions and debates
of opposition legislators. Zwizwai said he had observed that the
ZBC cameras were simply switched off whenever an opposition parliamentarian
rose to debate issues in parliament.
the lack of alternative voices on ZBC to poor communication which
resulted in them failing to receive certain information on time
but that the state broadcaster reserved the editorial independence
to decide which voices and issues could be aired in the "public
interest". On the editing of opposition voices, he said this
was done in the public interest and to protect the country's
cultural and political values. "That is our prerogative as
professional broadcasters," said Mhandu.
Asked by MISA-Zimbabwe
National Director Rashweat Mukundu to explain the criteria that
ZBC used in determining public interest and issues that are covered,
all Mhandu could say was that the ZBC operated within the guidelines
of broadcasting. Mukundu, however, asserted that the transformation
of the ZBC hinged on the enactment of enabling legislation which
guarantees the broadcaster's independence as well as ensuring
that the ZBC is answerable to parliament as opposed to the prevailing
situation where it operates "in secrecy".
In his submissions,
Mhandu, however, insisted that the broadcaster faced critical problems
arising from the shortage of foreign currency to import the required
equipment which made the task at hand unattainable adding that the
broadcaster had not received any funding from government since 19995.
"The resource base does not allow us to go to every corner
of Zimbabwe. We are not able to give television coverage all the
time we are requested to do so. This is not by design but this situation
is compelled by the resource base situation," he said.
however, said the issue of ZBC's biased coverage should be
taken seriously in keeping with the expected public broadcaster's
mandate to reflect the country's diverse political structures.
"I know your (Mhandu's) hands are tied somehow but this
is a very, very serious matter," said Zwizwai.
before the committee was a representative of the Broadcasting Authority
of Zimbabwe (BAZ). The representative failed to explain to the committee
why BAZ had failed to license new players. Committee Chair Leo Mugabe
admonished BAZ for its slow pace in licensing new players. He charged
that some of the problems being encountered related to the Broadcasting
Services Act especially the provision banning foreign funding in
The BAZ representative
said (BAZ) had made submissions to the Minister of Information and
Publicity but is yet to receive a response. The BAZ representative
failed to respond to a number of questions prompting the Committee
to ask its chief executive officer to appear before the Committee
in two weeks time.
the MISA-Zimbabwe fact
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