ZBC should sustain-self

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HARARE – Jonathan Moyo is in synch with national sentiment when he expresses exasperation at the deplorable state of affairs at ZBC.

But he is wrong in looking for scapegoats for the decadence at the broadcaster.

Moyo sought to blame the deterioration of the situation at ZBC, including failure to pay workers, on former finance minister Tendai Biti.

“Throughout his tenure,” Moyo said, “Biti did not allocate a cent, let alone a dollar, to address the problems that the newspapers have been highlighting about the plight of workers at ZBC. These problems became particularly acute during the life of the unity government and according to the newspapers, some of the workers have not been paid for five months.”

It has become a habit of politicians to blame opponents for everything under the sun. But this propensity has bred cynicism about politics among the public.

In Britain, for instance, the governing coalition of the Conservatives (Tories) and Liberal Democrats would seize every opportunity to lampoon the previous Labour regime for every other malady, in particular the current economic woes, until the public became fed up of it.

Each time reference has been made to Labour’s past rule, grumbles, if not boos, have often swept across the audiences. In the face of crisis, people want solutions rather than political point-scoring.

The situation at ZBC constitutes a crisis, a management one, majorly. As minister in charge, Moyo has to be honest about problems besetting this institution rather than seek cheap political points.

In fact, there are not many points Moyo can score here. It did not strike most as if the previous regime or its finance minister had plenty of money to go round, with diamond revenue in particular, barely accounted for.

Even if the money was available, one would not blame Biti. How would he apportion funds from taxpayers of various political shades to an institution whose sole mission is to serve the interests of a single political party? 

With competing demands, why would ZBC, supposedly a commercial institution, be a deserving priority for State funding?

Bewailing Biti’s failure or refusal to fund ZBC, Moyo is in essence creating the impression that the broadcaster is entitled to funds from the national fiscus.

One can sympathise with workers protesting over non-payment of their deserved salaries.

But the government should not create an entitlement culture among commercial institutions it controls.

It is the same with the national disgrace that is Air Zimbabwe; supposed to be profitable but now expects to be bailed out by the government every time.

An entitlement culture does not encourage good performance; instead, institutions will underperform and expect government largesse.

ZBC is supposed to generate revenue through licensing and advertising, among other things. It should sustain itself.

In any case, there are practices at ZBC that would enrage the taxpayer.

It ought to be business orthodoxy that the salaries of management comport with the financial performance of an institution.

At ZBC, this commonsensical model has been turned upside down; top managers enjoy obscene salaries incommensurate with performance.

What Moyo is saying is Biti should have directed taxpayers’ money to reward such irresponsible and perennial underperformers. It is absurd.

Even the servile press was uncharacteristically candid lately, pointing out that some of the problems at ZBC could not, as has expediently become tradition, be attributed to so-called sanctions. But the question of ZBC commercial performance goes much deeper.

It is rests with those in control of, in Marxist thought, the “ideological superstructure” as it relates to culture industries.

Zanu PF has used ZBC, as a cultural institution, as a strategic ideological tool. However, such media control to advance a monolithic political culture is just as out of kilter as a one-party state is in contemporary politics.

The 21st generation is keen on diverse cultures and plurality of ideas, the reason for the mass migration from ZBC to satellite television stations over the years, resulting in loss of revenue.

Moyo is part of the controllers of the current ideological superstructure.

He and Zanu PF have a choice: let ZBC continue to serve their ideological purposes, promote its entitlement and unprofitable culture or transform its broadcasting philosophy so it can operate as a popular commercial entity.

 

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