WINDHOEK – Namibia Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) line minister Stanley Simataa has assured politicians that adequate television coverage for all political parties contesting in next month’s Presidential and National Assembly elections are guaranteed.
Simataa made this assurance to lawmakers last week in Parliament while responding to questions posed by United People’s Movement (UPM) Member of Parliament (MP) Johannes van Wyk who among others wanted to know whether the national broadcaster has the ability to cover the forthcoming elections schedule for next month.
“I am confident that as has become customary in the event of elections, sufficient provision will be made in the allocation to the Electoral Commission of Namibia,” Simataa said.
“Equal free airtime allocated to registered political parties contesting in the November elections, will not be affected. I however encourage political parties to increase their expenditures on paid airtime and in so doing support the national broadcaster,” he added.
“By the way, it is only the NBC that has an extensive radio footprint. Indeed, it is only the NBC that broadcasts in all the national languages and has 11 radio stations,” Simataa reassured lawmakers.
Furthermore, he told lawmakers that the national broadcaster is technically insolvent and demands a huge financial injection from its shareholder.
As line minister, Simataa said he still has faith that government will do its utmost best to keep this public entity afloat and further that the envisaged reforms once realised, will restore the viability and credibility of the NBC’s operations.
“I verily believe that it’s time for us to elevate the plight of the NBC to the basket of government’s funding priorities. The majority of our people in rural areas, on whose account we exist as leaders, depend on radio as the only reliable medium in their respective desolate localities, to access critical information,” he said.
“We cannot and must not let our people down!” he added.
Simataa said to date, the NBC’s historical debt plus the remaining balance due to Huawei for the DDT which has since stalled, stands at a whopping N$363 million.
According to him, the corporation owes the taxman N$239 million and N$124 million to Huawei for the DDT.
He said this is further exacerbated by their astronomical wage bill which he said gobbles 68 percent of their operational budget leaving little or nothing to spend on Capex and other key operations.
On the retrenchment, Simataa said retaining the current level of staffing at the corporation is no longer sustainable and has the effect of totally collapsing the entity.
“Yes, the outcome of this exercise will invariably lead to retrenchments. But what choice do we have when annual staff costs alone stands at N$262.5 million,” he said.
“Simple arithmetic of the subsidy of N$140 million plus N$100 million own revenue, gives a total of N$240 million, which is N$22.5 million less than what is required to cover staff costs,” he explained.