HARARE – The decision by Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) workers to embark on three days of spiritual fasting in a bid to end a hellish seven-month period without pay is a clear sign of how the situation has deteriorated at the national broadcaster.
That workers could go unpaid for so long against a backdrop of claims that ZBC managers at the ailing broadcaster are taking home an average of $20 000 a month each while driving top-of-the-range vehicles, is a serious indictment on Webster Shamu, the former Media and Information minister.
After witnessing the sad chapter at ZBC unravel unchecked under his watch, many Zimbabweans were not surprised when President Robert Mugabe shunted the Zanu PF political commissar away from the Information ministry when he set up the new Cabinet.
The appointment of Jonathan Moyo as Shamu’s replacement has predictably triggered mixed emotions given the unprecedented media repression which ran riot during the former Tsholotsho parliamentarian’s previous reign at the ministry. Hopefully, Mugabe reappointed Moyo to the Information portfolio because he genuinely feels he is the right man to, among other priorities; undo the mess that has become ZBC.
Moyo, who still has to convince many of us that he will indeed pursue a more progressive course this time around, immediately has to get stuck into the ZBC issue with fervour.
The new Media and Information minister has to earn his spurs by making ZBC a real public broadcaster; one that realises that its real masters are listeners and viewers and not politicians.
For too long, ZBC has behaved as if radio listeners and television viewers owes it.
The national broadcaster has endlessly served drivel while strangely expecting radio listeners and television viewers to pay licence fees.
This clearly unhelpful attitude has seen ZBC’s viewership and listenership decline to alarming levels.
Even the most poorly paid Zimbabweans have been forced to migrate to satellite television provider Dstv because they can no longer stomach the poor programming from ZBC.
Surprisingly, it would appear Moyo’s priorities are elsewhere.
The minister announced this week that he is restoring the 75 percent local content policy against the prevailing situation where most of the local music is clearly of local quality.
The minister admitted that there was need to help local music reach higher quality levels when he made the announcement.
It is clear that at this point Zimbabwean musicians are not well-positioned to benefit from the generous local content policy.
Given the lessons learnt when the policy was last in force, it would have been helpful for the minister make a much lower starting point which would be revised upwards in response to our musicians’ ability to reap rewards off the policy.