The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Media, Information and Communication Technology has revealed that equipment at the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation studios is out-of-date and in a sorry state.

In a report prepared by the committee on the state on the public media in Zimbabwe, the committee states that the national broadcaster is finding it difficult to get spare parts.

"The committee found out that the state of equipment at all ZBC studios for both radio and television was in a sorry state. The public broadcaster now finds it very difficult to get spares for most of its equipment as the suppliers had either closed shops or switched to digital equipment.

"The TV equipment is now more than 15 years old and the outside broadcasting equipment was purchased in 1994. It is now very difficult to have outside broadcasts and the broadcaster admitted that productions are now of poor quality. They do not have electronic news gathering cameras, micro-wave links and satellite link to cover events outside the broadcaster," read the report.

The committee also noted that ZBC was accruing interest on a debt it owed an Iranian company, which supplied them digital equipment. ZBC benefited from a 15 million-euro loan government-to-government bilateral agreement between Zimbabwe and Iran.

"The fund was shared between ZBC and ARDA, with ZBC getting five million euros while ARDA got 10 million euros. The Iranians required the fund to be serviced in its totality. ZBC started paying back while the other recipient was not. ZBC stopped after paying only 300 000 euros as the other recipient was not paying anything. ZBC felt that the deal was a bit unfair as the Iranian company factored in a huge mark-up if one compares the cost of such equipment in the world market. In 2004, the mark up was close to 50 percent," the committee noted.

It further said ZBC is of the view that they did not benefit fully from the Iranian deal because the Iranians installed the equipment and left without training ZBC personnel to operate the equipment.

"There are efforts to try and re-engage the Iranian company with a view to resuscitate the project but funding is the major problem. The Iranian company had signalled that re-engagement process could only start after the broadcaster pays an additional amount," the committee said.

The portfolio committee also indicated that the broadcaster wanted recapitalisation from Government, which was not contributing anything.

"Workers at Montrose in Bulawayo pointed out that while Government was not contributing anything, all national events were being covered by the broadcaster at no cost and this presents a major cost to the broadcaster," the committee said.

The committee added that the public had indicated that the licence fees were excessive when compared to the quality of programmes aired. This resulted in the public resisting paying license fees.

The committee said workers were concerned with the rate of staff turnover at senior management level, adding that some of the managerial posts were unnecessary.

"Workers expressed concern at the rate of firing at senior management level as people leave and continue to enjoy their benefits when contracts are terminated prematurely. This they argue was a major drain on the company's meagre resources. In their view, some managerial positions were regarded as created with individuals in mind and not as a necessity," the committee said.

by Ndou Paul 24.06.2011