Maridadi says no radio station in Zimbabwe is making a profit


Secondly, that all radio stations must be secured by members of the Zimbabwe National Army, we would not have that.  Radio stations must be responsible for their security.  One of the conditions for them to be able to get a licence is that they must satisfy the BAZ that they will be able to secure the premises from which they operate.  National radio stations that are owned by Government like ZBC must be secured by Government because they are owned by Government.  Government cannot incur an expense to look after or secure an independent radio station or television station.

There is this issue that was raised by the Portfolio Committee that the radius within which the radio station is supposed to transmit is too small.  Technically, they are supposed to transmit within a radius of 40 km but the situation on the ground is that none of these radio stations can be able to be confined to a radius of within 40 km.  Just driving along Lomagundi Road to Chinhoyi, Capitalk Radio Station which is based in Harare must be broadcasting within a 40 km radius of Harare but you get it almost beyond Mapinga, which is may be 60/70 km. 

It is because technically, there is no way that you can confine their broadcasting frequency to a 40 km radius because of the technical equipment that we have.  Also having said that, the business model that these radios stations are using to operate is such that they cannot be profitable.  I hear in the Portfolio Committee reports, when you speak to these radio stations, they will tell you that they are profitable but there is not a radio station that I know in this country which is current in terms of paying their employees’ salaries.  Some are two, three or four months behind, ZBC included.  They do not pay their employees on time and salaries are a function of an organisation’s revenue.

One of the first cost that you incur when you get revenue is salary and when you fail to pay your salary on time, it means the company is not making a profit because the human resources are those that enable you to make that profit and if you fail to pay them, it means the company is not making a profit.  So, there is this issue that they have broken even and they are making a profit; Mr. Speaker, it is not true.  Radio stations and broadcasting institutions make a profit from advertising.  If you ask me to count the number of advertisers that we have in Zimbabwe, I can count the fingers on my left hand and before I finish them, I will be stammering. 

There is Econet, Telecel, Netone and there is Natbrew and there is nobody else. So, everybody who is publishing, be they newspapers, television stations or radio stations, they all go and queue at Econet, Telecel and Natbrew.  This is a very dangerous situation because you can have Econet and Telone and these big advertisers actually colluding to determine the content that goes in a newspaper or radio station because without those advertisers, the radio station is dead.

I was thinking to myself that even if Econet had an advertising budget of $500 000 a month, it is the same $500 000 that must go to Zimpapers to all the newspapers of Zimpapers.  It is the same $500 000 a month that must go to all ZBC’s radio and television stations; the same $500 000 that must go to all independent radio stations and that money is not enough.  So, there is not a radio station in this country that can go around boasting that they are making a profit because they are not.  If you ask me to justify my argument, I will say why are you not paying your people? 

Mr. Speaker, let me now come to the other issue of then changing the business model or changing the requirements of a radio station to then become provincial radio stations because when you go to an advertiser, the first thing that an advertiser will ask you if you tell them to advertise on this lot, they want to know the listenership patterns.  Listenership is what determines whether or not you are going to get advertisers.  If your listenership at a particular time is 10 000 people and another particular time it is 100 000 people, the advertisers will always go to that time slot where more people are listening to your radio station.  Now because of the area of broadcasting, radio stations are not able to attract a lot of people.

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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