Mutare, January 18, 2014 – Government will scrap the contentious listeners’ licence fee being charged everyone with a receiver, Secretary for Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Mr George Charamba has said. The Broadcasting Services Act, which penalises the possession of a radio or television signal receiver without a valid licence, has over the years come under severe criticism as some argued that the possession or ownership of a television signal receiver does not necessarily mean it was intended for purposes of accessing ZBC’s broadcast material.
ZBC, in its capacity as the nation’s public broadcaster, has been the sole beneficiary of the listeners’ licence fee.
However, Mr Charamba, who confirmed the development during deliberations at the ZiFM strategic workshop in Nyanga yesterday, said the fee was not serving its intended purpose, hence the decision to scrap it.
“We are getting to a time when the listeners’ fee has to be scrapped. The Broadcasting Services Act requires that all stations make a provision for Government Airtime (GAT), uphold the 75 percent local content concept, promotion of national languages and dialects yet only the so-called public broadcaster then gets to benefit out of it.
“After all, the absurdity of the legal instrument is exposed by the fact that mere possession of a receiver attracts a licence fee and with all the communication gadgets around us, it means almost everyone has to pay a licence fee even when one owns a phone. We have made a decision as a ministry and get it from me, it will soon be a thing of the past,” he said.
Mr Charamba said the financial situation in the media industry was gloomy.
“If our goal in 2000 was to destroy all dissenting media houses, as some would want to perceive things, then we are now presented with the chance to destroy them without firing a single shot. We had a chance to visit media houses recently and the situation is gloomy.
“AMH is not a happy story. Go to ANZ, it is not a happy story either. The only institution that is close to keeping its head above the waters is Zimpapers. We are facing a real catastrophe in the industry. We have replayed the political story forgetting that we have a responsibility to create business ideas to survive in such an environment,” he added.
The ZiFM retreat, which started yesterday, ends tomorrow.