Harare, February 16,2014 – Financial problems at the cash-strapped Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) are set to worsen, amid revelations that the state broadcaster is likely to lose its licensing arm to the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ)
Sources said government was mulling the amendment of the Broadcasting Services Act to enable BAZ to collect radio and television licence fees, a role previously enjoyed by ZBC.
A senior government official said it was realised that the thousands of dollars collected by ZBC in licence fees were being diverted to pay hefty allowances and salaries for top executives instead of being channeled towards programming or procuring essential equipment.
“Once the Act is amended, BAZ will take over the licensing fee collection role. In future all the revenue generated from licence fees will be used for programming purposes rather than to pay salaries,” said the official.
The official said the licensing policy needs to be reviewed because under the current law, even those with communication gadgets like cellphones are required to pay licence fees as the devices can receive radio signals.
The source said the current licence fees were unreasonably high at a time when most people in the country were struggling to pay for basic services.
ZBC management was also criticised for complaining that government stopped subsidising the parastatal in 1999.
“ZBC is the only institution which was being subsidised by the people through licence fees,” said the government official.
Efforts to obtain comment from BAZ chief executive officer, Obert Mugayura and ZBC spokesperson, Gladman Bandama were fruitless yesterday.
Thousands of Zimbabweans have been boycotting paying licence fees, accusing the public broadcaster of poor quality programmes and bias towards the ruling Zanu PF party.
Many people have opted for free-to-air channels and other satellite stations.
ZBC is currently mired in scandals after revelations that suspended chief executive officer, Happison Muchechetere was earning over US$44 500 per month in salaries and allowances.
Suspended general manager of finance Eliot Kasu, general manager of news Tazzen Mandizvidza and general manager of radio services, Allan Chiweshe were each reportedly taking home US$26 875 every month.
The documents show that the total monthly wage bill for the 46 managers at ZBC was US$464 967, while that of about 1 050 general workers stood at US$908 534.
Sources said the ZBC managers were paying themselves using millions of dollars illegally borrowed from a local bank without the knowledge of the board and parent ministry.
This came at a time when workers had gone for seven months without salaries at the corporation which is saddled in debts of US$44 million.
The Minister of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services, Professor Jonathan Moyo in November suspended Muchechetere and fired the entire ZBC board led by former Premier Service Medical Aid Society, Cuthbert Dube for incompetence.