“NBC needs to figure out a sustainable funding model” – Mathe

Erasmus Shalihaxwe

The Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology’s Executive Director, Audrin Mathe, stated that the current method of revenue collection employed by the Namibia Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), is not profitable nor sustainable and that the state-owned entity needs to find a solution.

Mathe was responding to questions from the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resources and Community Development about the NBC strike this week in Windhoek.

In 2021, about 600 NBC employees went on a nationwide strike demanding an 8 percent salary increment and for all workers employed on a contractual basis to be employed on a full-time basis.

It was agreed that the strike be held on the principle of “no work no pay” a situation that led to workers having to pay NBC back for the time they spent on the strike, causing financial constraints on them.

Mathe said NBC has been experiencing financial difficulties, and a large portion of its budget comes from the state because the broadcaster is not generating enough revenue to sustain itself.

“The reality is a question of affordability, what is the funding model of NBC should not be what it is now. We have to figure out a more sustainable formula, relying on TV license fees and thinking you are going to pay your employees, just doesn’t work. Other countries are now moving away from where license fees are a source of revenue.

Advertising…to give you an example chair (Committee Chairperson), in Namibia on prime time is N$ 1600 per 30 seconds advertisement. If you look at the bigger market like South Africa, that will be between N$ 5000 and 26 000. Our population is a… if you say the active population that pays tax is about 654 000 people in Namibia, to expect that they will be then in a position to fund a corporation to be profitable is not possible,” explained Mathe.

He added that currently NBC has 11 radio stations catering to various vernacular languages, and only four of them are close to making a profit to sustain their expenses. These are Oshiwambo radio, Otjiherero radio, National radio (English) and Kaisames radio (Damara Nama). The rest are being subsidised by the government directly, which is a burden to the state coffers.

“Others are burdens, it is not something you can say please generate your income and stand on your own. For example, Tirelo Ya Setswana radio, and the San community, are very small, and the listenership is somewhere at 5,000 people. The San community in Tsumkwe is a social program and you cannot expect them to generate income.

But we also have a view that NBC can still do more to generate an improved income. The target they have set for themselves I think can be up so that it offsets what the government gives to make it affordable,” Mathe said.

The former New Era Newspaper Chief Executive Officer further stated that NBC has three TV channels, including the one that broadcasts Parliamentary sessions and such a channel cannot be expected to generate revenue because it is unusual to see Parliament advertising.

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