N$54m lifeline for ailing NBC

25 October 2019 | Economics

Finance minister Calle Schlettwein has emptied state coffers to the tune of N$54 million to bail out the Namibia Broadcasting Corporation (NBC).

While Schlettwein may have closed the tap for Air Namibia during his midterm budget review on Tuesday in the National Assembly, the public broadcaster, which strong-armed the government with threats that it would not be able to cover the elections because of its precarious financial position, has received its bailout.

“We believe the NBC is an important institution that has a wide variety of functions.

With the mid-year budget review, we have created opportunity to do that [funding],” Schlettwein said at a post-budget discussion.

“One has to recognise that the function of the NBC is not one that we can just ignore and if resources are needed, we have to provide them,” added Schlettwein. Despite the bailout to help the broadcaster sustain its operations, Schlettwein cautioned that it would have to do more with less.

“We do believe that there is a significant amount of spending that can be much leaner without reducing the service that is delivered.

“We believe that there needs to be some serious restructuring in that organisation to be more efficient and effective to bring about better service delivery and we hope some financial envelopes will spur them to do exactly that,” he said.

Schlettwein doubted that the broadcaster was being managed in the best manner.

“Have they checked their wage bill? Have they looked if every manager that earns above a million is actually delivering a million a month? Have they looked whether their procurement is efficient? Have they bought equipment for the best prices available? Have they seen that service delivery can be streamlined and improved? We don't see those signs,” said Schlettwein.

The reduction in state funding should have been an indication to the NBC that it would have to manage its resources better, Schlettwein felt.

“If you get a lesser subsidy from your shareholder, I thought that is an indication for the state-owned enterprise to go back, look into your organisation and see how you can do more with less,” said Schlettwein. “They need to come to the party.”

In an effort to contain costs, the financially crippled public broadcaster in September announced a host of austerity measures, which included removing indigenous news content from its screens.

Among the measures introduced, the broadcast hours of NBC1 were reduced to 07:00-21:00 daily, while the main English news bulletin is aired only once a day at 20:00. The live broadcasts of parliamentary proceedings were also discontinued on NBC2.


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