'Broadcasting Business Is Very Very Expensive'- AB Communications CEO

By Nkosana Dlamini

HARARE-4 September 2015-Zimbabwean media firms have lamented the country’s harsh taxing regime

which they say has both narrowed their profits and forced them to hike

the price of their products

AB Communications CEO Susan Makore said Thursday local broadcasters
suffered double taxation through government’s multiple tariff
structure, a situation which has invariably rendered their operating
environment way too unfriendly.

“We find the regulatory environment not too friendly in terms of
operating,” Makore told participants at a Media Alliance of Zimbabwe
(MAZ) organised strategy review stakeholders conference.

AB Communications is the parent company of ZiFM, one of the two
private broadcasters issued with commercial broadcasting licences by
government in 2011.

Makore added: “We believe that the multiple licencing structure
burdens us as broadcasters.

“We have a Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe which issues us with a
licence and we pay an annual licence fee, in addition to that we pay
monthly frequency fees to the BAZ, we are also supposed at the end of
each year to surrender 0.5 per cent of our gross earnings to the
authority.”

The fees paid to BAZ are channelled towards a broadcast fund created
to develop the country’s broadcasting infrastructure.

The AB Communications boss said her station also pays additional
annual fees to the Zimbabwe Media Commission, the National Arts
Council of Zimbabwe, the promoters’ fees annual levy to the Zimbabwe
Music Rights Association (Zimura) and radio signal carrier,
Transmedia.

Makore added: “Because we operate as businesses, we also pay other
taxes that ZIMRA expects. So you find that the business of
broadcasting is also very, very expensive.”

The AB Communications boss said the situation is not helped either by
the continued sight of broadcasting as a leisure sector by struggling
companies which target their advertising budgets first in efforts to
downsize their expenditure.

Unlike ZBC which survives on grants regularly issued by the state, the
broadcaster relies on advertising revenue.

Similarly, Alpha Media Holdings, the country’s biggest private
newspaper concern with three newspaper titles to its name, is not
singing a different tune.

Speaking during the same occasion, group managing director Vincent
Kahiya said the country’s punitive tax regime has seen them keep
newspaper prices higher than those in the region in efforts to
survive.

“Taxation alone is almost 28 cents to the dollar, the cover price of
the newspaper,” Kahiya said.

“Zimra is taking VAT on the newspapers whether the paper is profitable
or not; they are saying you are collecting money every day. They are
picking up the normal Pay As You Earn if you make a profit, they want
some money.

“ZIMDEF Manpower Development Fund) wants a part of the action; we are
paying NSSA, we are paying the Zimbabwe Media Commission.”

“A few weeks ago, I had a visit from EMA, they also want part of our
money. So people are quieting by your door wanting money and those
issues are what makes our media products very expensive.”

Kahiya said the challenges have forced media firms to dig even deeper
in their income generating strategies to maintain viability in amid
company closures and a resultant shrinkage in advertising clientele.