Zimbabwe: ZBC’s equipment obsolete, audience low

Broadcast

Equipment at all Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) studios for both radio and television is too "old, obsolete and incompatible" with new technologies in the broadcasting sector, a recent parliamentary committee report said.

The sorry state of the equipment has greatly compromised the quality of production in all studios countrywide. The revelations contained in the first report of the portfolio committee on Media, Information and Communication Technology on the State of Public Media in Zimbabwe confirms a story carried by The Standard newspaper in November last year. ZBC sued The Standard for US$10 million claiming that the story was a lie.

"It is now very difficult to have outside broadcasts and the broadcaster admitted that productions are now of poor quality," reads part of the report. "They do not have electronic news gathering cameras, microwave link, and satellite link to cover outside broadcasts."

The detailed report said the corporation has one functional editing machine which had to be shared between programming and news departments. "As a result, they have to edit programmes up to midnight or early morning hours."

The committee found that the equipment, commissioned in the 1990s, now needed to be replaced by digital equipment by 2015 in compliance with the deadline set by the International Telecommunications Union.

MPs noted that it was now difficult to get spares for "old and obsolete equipment". The state of affairs is equally bad at Montrose Studios in Bulawayo. There are no portable recorders.

Apart from that, the OB (outside broadcasting) van is now grounded and ZBC has to bring the one in Harare for events taking place in Bulawayo, about 440 km away.
Workers are sometimes ferried in "open" trucks to work.

The report also confirms that viewers are no longer listening or watching ZBC programmes because they are lowly regarded. ZBC, said the report, was therefore facing resistance in collecting licence fees, particularly form individuals.

Revenue generation by the corporation remains very low. The report said with transmission coverage of 30% for television and less than 45% for radio, it is difficult for ZBC to realise considerable amount of revenue from licences.

"Regarding salaries workers at Pockets Hill were concerned about failure by the company to meet pay dates, sometimes they were paid two weeks into another month," the report said.

A separate article from SW Radio Africa reported that  a Parliamentary grouping investigating the state of the media in Zimbabwe has called for an end to the monopoly of the state's Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), calling it 'incompatible' with freedom of expression. The report singled out the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), which continues to restrict the work of journalists.