Zimbabwe: ZBC Strikes Off 'Talking Business'

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Talking Business, arguably the most watched business programme on ZTV, has been struck off air on curious grounds that the loss-making public broadcaster was already running similar productions.

Insiders at Pockets Hill (the headquarters of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation - ZBC) revealed this week that a letter had been dispatched to the producers of Talking Business (Mighty Movies), informing them of the sudden turn of events.

They said the informative 30-minute current affairs programme, which had been running for the past six years, could only be reconsidered if packaged as an infomercial, attracting about $21 million in airtime.

"This is certainly not a viable option, considering that Mighty Movies was not making money from the programme. In fact, it is ZBC, which has been gaining and the nation at large, which has benefited from the incisive issues raised via the programme," said the source.

Talking Business host, Supa Mandiwanzira and ZBC's marketing and business development manager, Josephine Toro could not be reached for comment at the time of going to print.

Despite its dire financial position, ZBC has not had the best of relations with independent producers.

In 2001, fugitive businessman Mutumwa Mawere's National Development Association programme, Talk To The Nation, was withdrawn from television.

In May 2002, ZBC switched off James Makamba's Joy TV citing a section of the Broadcasting Services Act prohibiting the public broadcaster from continuing to lease the station.

Other channels have, however, fallen by the wayside due to viability problems.

For example, Munhumutapa African Broadcasting Corporation had a short-lived life in 1997 when it operated for a few months before shutting down after allegedly failing to pay airtime fees to ZBC.

Sources said it was curious that ZBC had proceeded to withdraw Talking Business a few weeks after some of its top executives had given the programme the thumbs up.

"Talking Business has always been a current affairs programme, this is the understanding that has kept it on air for the past six or so years," said a source. "It would appear that some of our executives have an axe to grind with some of the personalities at Mighty Movies, hence the decision to withdraw the programme," added the source.

An independent survey of the local media ranked Talking Business the highest watched business programme on ZTV.

The programme also featured among the top five of the most popular programmes produced locally.

Financial Gazette Harare, April 25, 2007