INFORMATION, Media and Broadcasting Services minister Professor Jonathan Moyo says the state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) is in a mess after it was run down in a manner which borders on “criminal neglect and mismanagement” whose full disclosure will shock the nation.
Moyo told Zimbabwe Independent in an interview last week that gross mismanagement of the state broadcaster is so shocking that he had to order a forensic audit, while suspending its CEO Happison Muchechetere, finance director Elliot Kasu and sacking the board which was chaired by Cuthbert Dube.
“That ZBC is facing many problems is an understatement,” Moyo said. “It is in fact in a sorry state. It has been practically run down in a manner that borders on criminal neglect and mismanagement whose disclosure will shock the nation.”
The minister however remained confident the fortunes of the state broadcaster could be turned around even though immediate issues that needed attention centred on the workers’ welfare.
“There are immediate challenges, especially in relation to the welfare interests of employees and statutory obligations that must be addressed immediately,” he said.
Moyo said ZBC’s turnaround strategy would be the responsibility of a new board which would be appointed based on the findings of the pending forensic audit, among other key considerations.
Shifting focus to the digitisation programme, Moyo said migration from analogue to digital broadcasting has the potential to create four new frequencies which in theory could support about 80 television services. However, he quickly added the creation of new channels will not automatically translate to 80 stations.
“As a result of the digital migration, we will have at least four frequencies on the UHF band each with a capacity for at least 20 television services meaning that we will have opportunities for at least 80 television services,” he said. “This does not mean 80 providers of television services will be licensed.”
Moyo said the number of allocated licenses will depend on a television frequency allotment plan which the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe is still working on.
The plan will take into account the economy’s carrying capacity and also include preserving some frequencies for use by future generations.
However, the country still looks set to miss the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and Sadc 2015 deadline to migrate to digital broadcasting. Zimbabwe has not invested much into the sector in the last decade as it went through a period of economic meltdown. Other countries in the region are currently forging ahead with digitisation.
The International Telecommunications Union has urged broadcasting companies to digitise by 2015 but Sadc has marked 2013 to be the deadline for its members to go digital.
While South Africa has made strides to meet the target, Zimbabwe is lagging behind due to lack of funds.
ZBC has entered into a partnership with South African signal carrier, Sentech, which is expected to help it digitise ahead of the 2015 Sadc deadline.
Representatives of the South African signal carrier company were recently in the country to discuss ways they would help ZBC digitise its equipment and signals.