ZBC must polish its programming


HARARE – Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor John Mangudya’s displeasure with the huge amounts of foreign currency being channelled towards Multichoice’s digital satellite television (DStv) must prod the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) to raise its game.

While presenting his Monetary Policy Statement on Wednesday, the central bank governor urged Zimbabweans to proritise raw materials ahead of satellite television subscriptions.

One needs not be a rocket scientist to establish why more and more Zimbabweans, most of them poorly paid, are becoming DStv subscribers. Most of the programmes on ZBC-TV leave a lot to be desired despite the licence fees that Zimbabweans religiously pay to the national broadcaster.

ZBC has dismally failed to conduct its business like a genuine public broadcaster — one whose policies are more responsive to its listeners and viewers and not selfish politicians.

Since Zimbabwe gained its independence from Britain in 1980, ZBC has largely conducted its business as if radio listeners and television viewers owe it. It is therefore, not surprising that Zimbabweans have been forced to turn to DStv.

Sadly, the government has also failed to create an environment which can facilitate the creation of more television stations offering better programming for Zimbabweans. Last year, the Information and Broadcasting Services ministry headed by Christopher Mushowe announced that they would create six more channels as a consequence of the country’s migration from analogue to digital broadcasting transmission.

Zimbabweans were, however, disappointed by the fact that the six channels, which are part of 12 envisaged television stations that will be created as part of the switch over to digital terrestrial television, will be run by the bungling national broadcaster ZBC.

The government has dismally failed to defend the logic of entrusting six more channels to ZBC, which is struggling to generate and acquire content for the single television station — ZBC-TV — it is currently running. Last year, Mushowe conceded that his ministry would find it hard to produce enough content for the envisaged six channels.

“There is a real risk of embarrassment if we fail to produce content for the six channels we will have . . . we are struggling to fill the broadcasting hours of one channel at the moment,” Mushowe told content providers during a meeting held in Mutare.

Given the above, it is clear the ball is in the government’s court. If they really want people to turn their backs on DStv, then they have to ensure that ZBC not only provides quality content but also discharges its duties like a bona fide public broadcaster. They should also ensure the promised six channels come to fruition.

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