Namibia: NBC Sinking in Red Ink

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The Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) may soon find itself in a situation where downsizing and retrenchments are unavoidable, unless Government steps in to rescue the embattled broadcaster. Escalating financial problems, a high staff turnover, and technical equipment that is either obsolete or constantly breaks down are just some of the factors that have driven the corporation into an absolute state of emergency. The Namibian has reliably learned that the NBC's top management hopes to schedule a meeting with President Hifikepunye Pohamba and Cabinet to discuss the corporation's plight.

The NBC apparently hopes that strides made in its management since Director General (DG) Bob Kandetu's appointment has given it more leverage than before to ask for such assistance. Some of the successes include cutting the corporation's monthly expenditure from N$13 million to N$11.2 million in the last 10 months, increasing advertising income from N$17 million to N$23.9 million since last year, and collecting between N$50,000 and N$60,000 a month in TV licence fees, something that has never happened in the history of the NBC.

While the corporation has an annual operational budget of N$150 million, it has an income of N$90.8 million, it is understood. Sources also indicate that plans have been drawn up that entail reducing the operational budget to N$120 million - but should this happen, a number of programmes are likely to be negatively affected. The corporation's poor financial condition, its high staff turnover, and the fact that it has for the past four years failed to honour a promise to grant salary increases to staff, have also apparently led to understaffed departments. The department that is especially affected are said to be the News and Current Affairs, where reporters are apparently being asked to work double shifts and are often denied leave.

Other ideas being considered to save costs are said to include stopping indigenous-language news bulletins and closing more satellite offices, as has been done in the past. Through these measures, the NBC apparently hopes to save on personnel, operational, and freelance employees' costs. Government approved N$62.6 million for the NBC in its Budget this year - N$200 000 less than last year.

(The Namibian (Windhoek), 11 June 2007)