Namibia: NBC Makes Big U-Turn


The on-again, off-again call-in programmes of the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation appear to be on again, but for how long no one seems to know. Regular radio listeners report that on Monday, May 7, NBC Director-General, Vezera Bob Kandetu, went on air to announce he was ending the suspension of the programmes. Kandetu also told listeners the corporation had a "rethink" as far as restricting the programmes to a format of set topics was concerned.

The U-turn by the NBC has been widely welcomed by fans of programmes such as the Chat Show, Open Line, Ewi Iyamanguluka and Tjirimeyo who have been starved of their favourite programmes for an entire week. The debacle surrounding the suspension of the talk-radio programmes nevertheless left many questions unanswered. The "coincidence" that the rethink was announced on the same day that Radio 99 launched its talk-radio show, only served to deepen suspicions surrounding the whole affair. The feeling in many quarters was that the NBC lost its nerve, and caved in too easily to a lot of hot air blown by critics when it decided to suspend the programmes.

Regular callers to the programme, the well-known "Oom Paul" Helmut, yesterday said he found the initial decision to suspend and tamper with the radio programmes disturbing as it impinged on the right to freedom of conscience. "I felt we were paying for the telephone calls, and for me to pay for the call and then be told what I can talk about is clearly violating my freedom of conscience," he remarked.

Helmut alleged that although the NBC claimed people were abusing the programmes to insult others, further investigation revealed that these people did not even number five - and actually only amounted to three people. He said that he himself asked NBC management some time ago to put mechanisms in place that would prevent abuse of the airwaves.

Such mechanisms, he added, were already in place on the Afrikaans, German and Rukavango radio services. "On these radio services, on programmes such as 'Spreekbeurt', if callers do not adhere to the station's policy guidelines they simply cut the caller off.

Caller after caller phoned in to complain that the call-in programme Tjirimeyo was the only platform ordinary people in the remote rural areas had for airing their grievances. A political analyst, who preferred to remain unnamed, said the commotion around the call-in programmes was typical of the confusion reigning among the country's elite.

He said he thought the NBC would have taken time to deliberate on the issue and consulted various stakeholders and media experts before making such far-reaching decisions.

New Era (Windhoek), 15 May 2007