ZBC Political Coverage Improves

HARARE – The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) has slightly shifted the manner in which it covers parties to the coalition government with the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and other independent voices, now getting considerable airplay.\r\n

The state broadcaster which has in the past only afforded ZANU PF airplay and only given MDC coverage in reports casting it in a bad light, has shifted the way it conducts business.

There has been considerable coverage of activities involving Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his Deputy Arthur Mutambara. This fair amount of coverage is however yet to be extended to the MDC political party activities.

A weekend news and current affairs programme, Zimbabwe Today, which discussed Africa Day commemorations was a good example of just how ZBC has shifted its coverage.

The programme featured the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) Director Ernerst Mudzengi, Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) secretary general Lovemore Chinoputsa, a University of Zimbabwe student and a Harare political analyst.

The panelist were allowed to air their views without any stifling from the moderator as was the case previously. It was also difficult for independent analysts from an organisation such as NCA led by Lovemore Madhuku, an arch critic of President Robert Mugabe, to even make it on the ZBC programmes.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has over the past weeks condemned the public media for not practising balanced journalism.

He castigated the state media particularly the Herald for reporting as if there is no coalition government.

However the Minister of Information and Publicity, Webster Shamu, responded to Tsvangirai’s accusations by saying the state media was doing well under the circumstances.

ZBC Chief executive officer-Happison Muchechetere said: “We have always tried hard to balance our news coverage but most of the times we are let down by the politicians who do not give us a diary of events. We are appealing for a government diary to give us an idea of whats taking place so that we can make adequate plans.“

He said often times they are left with no option but to only cover those functions of politicians phoning in with a diary.

Although Muchechetere’s comments meant that ZBC is not getting a government diary, it is a known practice that officers at the Ministry of Information always makes the government diary available on a daily basis.The diary is however supplied to independent media in an erratic fashion.

The MDC also issue out e-mail and text messages to all media houses announcing press conferences and events. State media journalists are among recipients of these messages.

On the issue of balancing representation on current affairs programmes, Muchechetere said: “We are usually let down by panelists who do not pitch up for programmes and if its a live programme we are left with no option but to go ahead with the programme without a balanced panel."