Namibia: NBC to under turnaround strategy, may be headed up by former BBC D-G


It is widely expected that Information Ministry officials will today announce the cutting of the NBC's umbilical cord when they spell out plans to commercialise the operations of the broadcaster, effective as soon as an amendment to the NBC Act is passed by Parliament.

Under the new turnaround strategy the NBC will undergo drastic changes in programming, management and outlook to go with the relatively new graphics in use since late last year. The NBC will also not receive any public funding, except for its radio service, untouched by these changes.

It is understood that the national broadcaster will be managed by a yet to be named former BBC director general. Negotiations with the British-born media expert are under way. Under the new plan the NBC board will consist of five members, of which only two "shall belong to the same political party". The new plan states that no elected officials will serve on the new NBC board. Opposition parties will be asked to nominate one board member while civil society organisations under Nangof will also get the opportunity to nominate one member and the media fraternity - through the Namibia Editors' Forum - will nominate one board member.

The trade union representing NBC employees, Napwu, will get the final seat. Nominees will be interviewed by a parliamentary committee consisting of the chief whips of all the parties represented in Parliament. The Minister of Information will have no say in the running of the broadcaster or of the appointment of the board in terms of the amendments.

A source in the Ministry said that the NBC would not be bailed out anymore. "The broadcaster will be assisted to start, as a commercial entity, with a clean slate but that will be the end of Government's involvement with the NBC, both ideologically and financially," said the high-ranking official.

Changes in structure are not the only changes, though. Soon the NBC will unveil two new television channels - a 24-hour news channel and a 24-hour sport and entertainment channel.
The existing channel will continue to broadcast local content with "improved quality", according to a leaked document in the possession of The Namibian. In a peculiar twist, the NBC will broadcast what is termed "adult entertainment programmes".

Decoders will initially be free of charge to all viewers whose licence fees are paid up to date. Those who do not wish to miss out on the entertainment, but are in arrears, can pay a one-off fee believed to be no more than N$200 to acquire the decoder. Viewers will still have to pay a yearly licence fee, the only difference is that the signal will be cut off if the fee is not paid on time.

Source: The Namibian