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Cablegate: Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation Announces

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PHUM KPAO ZI
SUBJECT: ZIMBABWE BROADCASTING CORPORATION ANNOUNCES
DRASTIC CUTS

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. NOT FOR INTERNET POSTING.

1. (U) On May 25 the government-owned Zimbabwe
Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) announced massive
staffing cuts and personnel changes. According to
Information Minister Jonathan Moyo, the de-facto
director of all government-owned media, approximately
60 percent of the ZBC's 900 employees will be laid
off. Moyo, however, sought to reassure threatened
employees with an Orwellian statement: "What the ZBC
has announced are not plans to retrench (lay workers
off), they have announced an action programme in the
on-going restructuring exercise." The Minister also
said he was sure that "..the on-going restructuring
exercise -- in particular the retrenchment process --
will boost morale."

2. (U) Among the casualties are several high-profile
appointments made at the ZBC's November 2001
restructuring. Chief among these is ZBC news editor-
in-chief Shepherd Mutamba, appointed to that key
position 7 months ago in during the ZBC's previous
pogrom. He was perceived to be a protg of Minister
Moyo, but in early May he conducted a tough television
interview with the controversial Minister. Among
other issues, Mutamba asked about the intent of the
"Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Bill"
and the perception that Minister Moyo is opposed to
freedom of expression. In the wake of that interview,
an article in the independent weekly "Standard"
predicted major changes at the state-owned media. Two
o
journalists from that newspaper were arrested and
charged with "publishing falsehoods" for reporting
imminent changes at ZBC. We will watch to see if
those charges are dropped now that the story has been
confirmed.

3. (SBU) Comment: ZBC has steadily lost
credibility, audience and income in the last two
years. Radio and television programs featuring live
calls from the public were canceled because of the
broadcaster's ban on dissenting views and criticism.
Current events and discussion programs sponsored by
advertisers or NGOs were canceled because, in the
words of Minister Moyo, "we do not want to be a
cultural colony of advertisers." Commercial
advertising diminished and was replaced by ruling
party-produced music videos extolling the virtues of
the "fast-track" land re-distribution program. News
and editorial opinion were merged into a pre-
masticated TV dinner that viewers have, apparently,
found unappetizing and indigestible. Lack of funds
has also forced ZBC TV to dig deeply into their tape
library. American sitcoms from the early 1970s,
largely irrelevant to Zimbabwe or the year 2002, now
form the basis of ZBC's entertainment programming.
The corporation is currently pursued by a number of
creditors, has had to take out emergency bank loans to
meet April and May payrolls, and has been reduced to
siphoning gasoline from inoperable Outside Broadcast
Vans in order to fuel reporters cars.

4. (SBU) Comment continued: While firing 60 percent
of its staff will eventually reduce the payroll, the
broadcaster will first need to find funds to pay
separation benefits. Minister Moyo has a plan:
"Retrenchments will have to be financed by finding the
money somewhere, one way or the other." A solution to
the ZBC's larger problem, restoring credibility,
audience and the ability to generate income, remains
even more vague.

SULLIVAN

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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