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ZBH Licence Fees Cause for Concern

THE Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) is deeply concerned by the exorbitant licence fees that have been pegged by Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings (ZBH) for the year 2009.

ZBH, with the approval of the Ministry of Information and Publicity has released a notice in terms of Section 38B (2) of the Broadcasting Services Act [Chapter 12:06] citing the new Listeners’ licence fees where radio listeners in the rural areas are expected to pay as much as US$10 while those in urban areas will be expected to part with US$20 per annum.  These licence fees are too high and they only serve to marginalise residents from getting broadcasting services as they are beyond the affordability of many. Other national broadcasters in the Southern Africa region draw most of their revenue from advertisers and this lightens the burden on listeners and viewers. In South Africa, for example, the government subsidises the costs of its national broadcaster, SABC and residents only have to pay television licence fees of US$22,5 per annum (while in Zimbabwe residents have to pay a whopping US$50). Unlike ZBH, SABC and other broadcasters rely on advertisers because they have explored ways to improve the quality of their programmes in order to attract advertisers. In Botswana, only broadcasters pay licence fees while viewers and listeners get these services for free.

This is not so with the Zimbabwean national broadcaster, ZBH. The previous government heavily polarised the programmes that were being aired both on radio and television and turned the national broadcaster into a political mouthpiece that focused on propaganda. That repelled many advertisers from conducting business transactions with the national broadcaster and thereby depleting its revenue base. Moreover, most radio and television owners purchased satellite decoders to get access to other broadcasters outside Zimbabwe. Thus advertisers lost their market and cut their ties with ZBH.
CHRA feels that ZBH should first conduct market research to find out what residents want on their television sets and revamp its programming in order to attract and regain the confidence of advertisers so as to get revenue. The licence fees that are being charged by ZBH do not correspond with the services that the national broadcaster is giving to residents.

Combined Harare Residents Association,

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