via ZBC can bury heads in sand at own peril by Robert Mukondiwa for NewZimbabwe 02/10/2013
THE interesting nuclear war sparked by the entertainment editor of the Sunday Mail has spilled over on the social networks, where people are debating how Garikai Mazara had the ‘audacity’ to take on the powers that be at Pockets Hill for their alleged shoddy service.
The rather tasteless response from ZBC has also received keen attention and interest. It well could have been the most amusing response ever to be printed in a newspaper this year, were it not for the equally tasteless fact that it was in fact at the expense of the taxpayer that such ranting would be made in the form of a presumably paid for advert.
After ten years in public media, I have the full knowledge that there has always seemed to be an unwritten and unlegislated pact between public media houses to conveniently overlook the faults of the other. Yet in the pursuit of protecting ‘our own’ the effect has been that standards have been let to slide tragically into untold lows, that have seen standards rot fester and rot.
Mazara, to his credit, made a number of interesting observations which showed how the public broadcaster had done well, and continues to do well in some of their services they give to the public. That has never been doubted or refuted.
Indeed, there was reasonable ignorance from Mazara on the workings of broadcast media at the national broadcaster where he had ZBC shoulder the blame for signal problems which otherwise should be the responsibility of Transmedia. The jester’s article from ZBC ably, and rightly made that point clear, suggesting that signals are the responsibility of Transmedia.
Mazara’s assertion that ZBC was to blame for poor signals and often loss of sound or picture is something that the layman would ordinarily also lay on the doorstep of ZBC. For a journalist that Mazara is however, that oversight is nothing short of a lazy approach to reporting or opinion writing as he was supposed to at least research on that matter and a lot many others before putting pen to paper.
Yet still Mazara is right. You see, the choice of who carries ZBC’s signal is up to ZBC. If they chose a scotch cart to carry their bread to an audience 200 miles away, they should face the wrath of the public if their product arrives with mould and flies all over it.
It is ZBC personnel that knock on our doors at home demanding licences for services rendered and programmes screened and presumably watched and hence if there is not signal, the buck stops on Muchechetere’s desk when poor service is provided, even if it is Transmedia who are to blame for the mishap.
Either way, the sad and contemptuous attitude of ZBC when they do discover that they have been giving compromised service or poor signal to the viewers comes across when their presenters grin as if nothing has happened and continue nonchalantly without apologising.
The tone of the response from ZBC however shows that it is a rather institutional problem which even cyanide may find hard to sanitise or kill off. Obviously to ZBC saying ‘we are sorry we erred’ is tantamount to giving in and admitting failure and they shall have none of that now shall they? Instead it is better to hold on and harp on about ‘other achievements’ rather than tackling the problem at hand. To err after all is human and to forgive divine.
It was pretty interesting too how, in order to show their strengths, ZBC chose to site the challenges of other broadcasters including Malawi. That should be the height of a special kind of lunacy. It is tantamount to a form four pupil being reprimanded for poor results and arguing that at least he has performed better than his kindergarten peer!
Zimbabwe should be the diamond standard of African broadcasting as we claim, arguably, to have the oldest broadcaster on the continent. The SABC should be envying us and yet even they, mafikizolo’s in comparison to us, have shot on ahead of us and not even the dust in their wake is in our sight. The saying goes ‘don’t accuse others to recuse yourself’ and it applies in this particular instance.
There is a sad fact though to what ZBC has been saying; their list of what they have done right is superb and cannot be questioned. However, what has gone right with ZBC is far easier to list down than what has gone wrong, and that is a sign of a bad marriage between them and the viewing public.
There is a known fact that is not exactly ZBC’s strong point and not even pointing a finger at Transmedia can sanitise that fact. How a news bulletin starts several minutes after the scheduled 8PM boggles the mind. Mazara is right. We cannot blame sanctions for our inability to read the time and adhere to it. They have a word for that; tardiness. And contemptuous tardiness at that if when the news commences fine minutes late there is no apology at the opening of the bulletin and its pokers faces and business as usual.
We are in a new era where we should be the gatekeepers reciprocally in our various institutions. Introspection and self criticism is a sign of love and the pursuit of national institutional perfection and hardly any sign of malice. Of course Mazara goes a tad far when he suggests that heads must roll. It is a nasty sight Mazara when heads roll. There is blood on the floor and families are left wallowing in poverty and hunger. On the other hand when those being given counsel refuse to take heed and dig their heels in, then maybe a machete or guillotine is in order.
Often, ZBC has committed crimes against journalism that should get them the Iron Maiden or have them hauled before a Hague of sorts. It is a fact. But since we are walking hand in hand now, it is high time we started giving each other advise and where possible, correcting our errors so that the golden era of public media returns. The environment is ripe for the building of an amazing media industry in Zimbabwe and we are the custodians of this era. We stand at the threshold.
Finally, while I cannot address all the problems wrong with the media, and we print media people are nowhere near angels as well, I can highlight a certain fact that has become the butt of all jokes but is in fact something we should be ashamed of.
Ten years ago as I joined the local print media I attended a cocktail addressed by the then permanent secretary for Environment Margaret Sangarwe. Close to an hour after her speech, the poor woman was dragged back behind the podium, appearing as if she were in the dock, and asked to repeat her speech with the invited guests required to feign interest in something that they had already heard. Apparently ZBC was an hour late and wanted an Oscar-winning Hollywood performance from Sangarwe who had to play act her real life role all over again.
I was bewildered! Everyone else told me that was the norm. The ‘media’ always comes late. Sangarwe, for all her acting prowess, never did get nominated for a Nama for Best Actress in a leading role, but she had done a sterling job (which is why I have scant respect for them awards ceremonies the world over) in getting ZBC the footage that they needed!
I was to witness this over and over again and even when new equipment was bought for the public broadcaster, they still would come late. Apparently the shortage of equipment had been given as a reason for this strange phenomenon. Today, give three cameras per person and even to the grounds-men at Pockets Hill and they will still come late. Why? Because we have let a cancer creep in and become a habit that is hard to kill.
That is what happens when ‘friends’ decide to look the other side when their ‘friends’ err. A true friend points out your weaknesses, and with that article, Mazara showed true love and passion for his national broadcaster. A strong person accepts the advice and works on their weaknesses. ZBC can bury their heads in the sand, or take the opportunity in the absence of those darn free-to-air channels to regain lost viewership and lost national pride. They owe it us after all.
Robert Mukondiwa is just some random dude who watches TV everyday hoping to come across something interesting!