Over 100 unionised employees at the Zambia National Broadcasting corporation (ZNBC) together with some management members have signed a petition against the decision to shift the responsibility of collecting TV levy from the corporation to IBA.

And the employees have submitted a petition to the office of the Clerk of the National Assembly proposing a further adjustment of TV levy from the recently revised K5 to K10.

Zambia Union of Broadcasters and other Information Disseminators (ZUBID) Secretary General Andrew Mpandamwike told News Diggers in an interview that the employees, in the petition demanded to know how the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) was going to combine the role of regulating as well as that of being a fund manager for the corporation.

The union also demanded to know how IBA would be giving the money collected from TV levy to ZNBC.

“As a union we have a few reservations with that proposal. So on Monday we did present our position as a union to the parliamentary committee. We are not sure, because the Act does not provide for how the IBA is going to be giving the money to ZNBC, that is one. Second, we feel IBA is a regulator, so how are they going to combine the role of regulating as well as being a fund manager? Because what IBA is proposing is that they will get that money and start distributing it to ZNBC, parliament TV, and TBN. So meaning they will be a fund manager and we want to understand how they will be operating as a fund manager as well as a regulator,” said Mpandamwike.

He further said that the union was also concerned with the proposed modality of using subscriber base in collecting TV levy since paying subscription fees was not mandatory.

“We are also concerned on the proposed modality of using subscriber base. Because subscription is a larger recess, its not mandatory. So we want to know if more people will go through subscription than the current mode that ZNBC is using. So those are the questions that we are raising and we want them to be taken on so that members of parliament as they are debating can look into those issues,” Mpandamwike said.

He said employees felt that their Director General misrepresented their views when he appeared before the parliamentary committee on media Information and Communication Technologies on Wednesday.

On Wednesday this week, ZNBC Director General Richard Mwanza told the above named committee that the proposal to amend the ZNBC and IBA Acts and to move the television levy to the IBA was progressive adding that the mandate of ZNBC was to broadcast and not to collect television levy.

And IBA Director General Josphine Mapoma also told the same committee that the current model of collecting tv levy had failed hence the Authority was better placed with the task of collecting levies.

But Mpandamwike said what the DG said before the committee was contrary to the views of the other staff.

“The members have signed the petition, just to reinforce those points because as you have rightly put it, you have seen how our director changed his mind there and said something that is contrary to what the other staff think. So they are just trying to reinforce those points that we need those things to be cleared out before it can be rolled out. So the workers have signed a petition which we have already delivered to the Clerk of the National Assembly. So far more than 100 members have signed the petition and its not only the unionised workers that have signed, its all the members at ZNBC, even those in management they have all signed,” Mpandamwike said.

And in the petition signed by ZNBC staff from Lusaka, Kitwe, and Livingstone, the employees feared that amending the ZNBC bill would cause huge loss as the corporation was already struggling to meet its monthly wage bill.

“We would be grateful if this Honourable committee could take judicial notice of the high operational costs of carrying out a free public broadcast service. Costs include and are not limited to the following: acquisition of content; production costs of content and remuneration of talent outside the employment of ZNBC; electricity, water and sanitation bills; fuel costs; management of infrastructure country wide; appropriate taxes under the law; staff pension contributions; staff emoluments are just a few mentioned. It is our submission that these obligations are in huge arrears as the current situation is that the corporation is struggling to even meet its monthly wage bill,” ready the submitted petition in parts.

The unionised employees further proposed a further adjustment of the TV levy from K5 to K10.

“Honourable Chairman sir, ZNBC has an operation cost of around K133 million per annum. From that amount, the Corporation is generates around K86 million per year in revenue, of which K29 million is from TV levy and K57 million is from commercial advertising. Members should take cognisance that this figure collected from TV levy is at the K3 per household that was introduced at inception in 2002 and there has never been a review of the same regardless of yearly inflation. We are grateful to this house for the review that has moved it from K3 to K5 effective January [2018]. Our proposal to enable ZNBC meet its barest operational cost would be to adjust the levy to K10 per month per household. This leaves a funding gap of K47 million. Of importance to note is that this deficit is even before ZNBC takes up the mandate of taking over the running and management of provincial broadcasting stations that will be broadcasting local content in each province,” further read the petition.