THE dire financial state of Namibia’s national broadcaster has reached critical levels which prompted the top management of the state-owned enterprise to introduce severe austerity measures which would include the retrenchment of more than a fifth of its staff compliment to keep it afloat.
In a statement issued by the Chairperson of the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation Board of Directors, Sven Thieme said if the funding level of the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation cannot be improved by the government as the main shareholder it would be prudent to consider the liquidation of the state-owned enterprise.
Thieme in his statement informed stakeholders that the funding situation has reached a critical stage where liabilities continuously rise and efforts to contain it are not sustainable.
“This makes it difficult for NBC to honour most of its commitments to creditors and carry out its mandate as per its founding Act.”
Thieme said the board proposed severe austerity measures as from the 10th of September 2019 to contain costs, given that there is no firm commitment from the main shareholder to a long-term solution to the financial situation at NBC.
The measures are:
– The austerity measures are that the broadcast hours on NBC1 will be reduced to 07h00 – 21h00 daily and the frequency of English Television News Bulletins to only run only once per day, at 20h00 only. All Indigenous News Bulletins to be taken off air and it will no longer be produced at all.
– The live broadcast of Parliamentary proceedings (National Assembly and National Council sessions) on NBC2 will be discontinued and will only be broadcast delayed and in a condensed edition the next day in addition to the news stories.
– NBC3 – Movie Channel, NBC4 – Educational Channel, NBC6 which is the KWESE Sports Channel and NBC5 – the Music Channel will also be abolished.
– All Radio Stations will commence broadcast from 07h00 to 21h00 daily.
– Staff travel from duty stations to assignments will be limited and all foreign travels unless paid for in full for man hours and all related cost by the initiating entity will be suspended.
– Work and productions linked to overtime will be managed per day as they happen. The main aim is to contain cost.
– The payment of fees to Directors was already discontinued.
– No live broadcasts will take place, unless paid for in full for man hours and all related cost by the initiating entity.
– The current situation also risks limitations in in the coverage of the upcoming Presidential and National Assembly Elections, unless this production is fully financially supported.
– The total staff complement will be reduced from 569 as at 1 September 2019 to 413. This reduction will require an intensive staff reduction exercise by the end of this financial year, meaning that 156 NBC staff members be it on permanent or short-term contracts risk losing their jobs. The engagement process with NAPWU and the Office of the Labour Commissioner will commence effective from the 10th September 2019 from a process perspective.
– Current employment agreements of the remaining staff complement may be renegotiated with the aim to reduce cost linked to current and future employment benefits structure. This will include leave, medical aid, retirement, insurance and other perks.
“Certainly, the above proposed measures are not taken lightly and their impact on many stakeholders like staff and the public cannot be overemphasised. However, as Directors we must at all time act in the best interest of the NBC, owing the corporation the duty to act with care, skill and diligence. At present, we are unable to vouch that the NBC is able to meet all its liabilities and can continue as a viable business,” Thieme said in his statement.
He further stated that the situation has led to some statutory obligations were not complied with.
According to Thieme the situation could expose the directors to criminal, civil and governance liabilities for failing to ensure that the NBC has the required funds to carry out its operations despite the fact that this factor is mainly outside the control of the Directors but determined by the Shareholder. He further indicated that the Namibia Financial Institutions Supervisory Authority (NAMFISA) has been planning to refer the NBC to the Prosecutor General to consider prosecution for violation of the Pension Funds Act (Act No. 24 of 1956).
“Our question is, where does this situation leave the shareholder who in the main is responsible for the funding part of the NBC given its nature of operations. Note must be taken that despite all these challenges, the NBC have been generating revenue which for the past three years is hovering above N$100 million per annum.”
Thieme said if the funding level cannot be improved to ensure that it is commensurate with planned spending, it would be prudent to consider the liquidation of the NBC in terms of Section 29 of the Namibian Broadcasting Act (Act No. 9 of 1991).