NBC must be rescued and reformed

DRASTIC and immediate cost cutting measures introduced by the Board of the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) this week spell a gloomy period for the national broadcaster, a situation that now more than ever, needs urgent resolve, rethink and reform.

It is sad that NBC as a key instrument of social understanding, affirmation, coherence and integration will see at least 156 employees retrenched and programming cut to hours only between 07h00 – 21h00 coupled with the scrapping of all indigenous news bulletins if a bailout in excess of N$300 million is not obtained.

While we believe that government must save the national broadcaster on the basis that mandate of NBC to inform is paramount, NBC needs a responsive turnaround strategy that must give confidence not only to advertisers and its viewers or listeners but also to government and everyone that in the next 3 to 5 years, the NBC will not come back and ask for a bailout.

Indeed, ensuring that NBC continues to meet its wider mandate of educating, informing and entertaining serves national interests but without significant reform, an NBC bailout would only provide a short-lived reprieve.

There is no question that NBC has over the past few years faced a myriad of challenges that have compromised its capacity to execute its national mandate of being a credible and reputable national institution worth of record and a source of national pride. It cannot be disputed that the bulk of the problems faced by NBC bordered on its hefty wage bill structure and a model that was not as effective in raising revenue outside the government subsidy.

On top of that, the quality of programming has also created indifference from viewers and listeners who at times viewed licence fees as some kind of extortion. With this in mind, it is imperative to put in place, strategies to ensure transparency in the collection and use of licence fees in improving programming and the reach of airwaves to outlying areas in the country particularly places like Katima Mulilo that have experienced a broadcast blackout for a long period of time.

The interrogation of what has led NBC to where it is now cannot be over emphasised and adaptation of a sustainable model needs to be done without over cutting scheduling and reducing the coverage of important and key national events bearing in mind that a flourish broadcaster is integral to the process of democratisation and good governance, and ultimately to human development.

Factually and with a progressive effect, a progressive NBC also contributes to empowerment, understood as a social, economic and political process that is a natural outcome of the public’s increased ability to access and contribute to credible information representing a plurality of opinions, facts and ideas.

In these trying times, most would argue that a bailout is a no go area, even when elections are pending but we believe that the government must bear in mind the critical role the corporation plays in sustaining the national and cultural fabric and find a way to provide a lifeline to the ailing broadcaster in view that things can only get better.