ZBC Groans Under Creaky Equipment

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The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), whose debts were inherited by government, is creaking under a pile of obsolete equipment and poor funding in what analysts said is an indication that the state broadcaster will continue to suckle from the taxpayer.

Senior staff at Pockets Hill, ZBC's headquarters, revealed this week that working for the broadcasting monopoly was a taxing exercise, as they have to deThe resources are so scarce that four reporters on different assignments are now forced to share a single camera, compromising the quality of news, they say.

ZBC has no functional Outside Broadcasting (OB) unit - with the last of its already antique OB vans having packed-up last year. Some of the OB vans were brought into the country over 20 years ago, specifically for the Non-Aligned Movement summit in 1986. This has made it virtually impossible for ZBC to broadcast live events, including football matches, without renting facilities from elsewhere.

The broadcaster, staff also say, also faces a depleted transport fleet, the remainder of which being well past its sell-by date.

ZBC chief executive officer Henry Muradzikwa, admitted that his organisation faces problems with its infrastructure, but sought to downplay the crisis, saying the situation was not as dire as reported.

He said: "We do not have a functioning OB van at the moment. They are old and need replacement. The digitalisation project is going to be realised. Our camera situation is not all that critical. The reports you are getting are just an exaggeration."

But a sign of the decay at the national broadcaster is how it has been struggling to broadcast live events. At the National Arts Merit Awards earlier this year, ZBC staff had to record proceedings, before repeatedly rushing tapes across town to Pockets Hill for broadcast.

The Independence concert last Friday was the first event broadcast live this year - only after Zimbabwe Cricket agreed to lease its own OB van to the ZBC for the event.

Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, announced last month during a tour of state media institutions that equipment at ZBC was in bad shape and needed a comprehensive revamp. This week, he said his ministry was working on resuming a second phase of the digitalisation programme.

"We are revamping the whole system. I have already declared that we are doing that programme soon. When I came in, I assessed the state of the equipment and made it public that it needed attention. But now we need more finances to carry out these programmes."

Financial Gazette Harare, April 19, 2007