By Tererai Karimakwenda
Media houses in Zimbabwe are reported to be struggling to cope as the economy continues to deteriorate, with private as well as state run entities failing to pay wages and being forced to retrench workers.
The demise of newspapers due to digital advances is known to be a global trend, but publishers in Zimbabwe are facing even more challenges as revenue from advertising shrinks and unemployed readers spend less on luxuries like newspapers.
According to the Independent newspaper Alpha Media Holdings and Associated Newspapers, as well as the state run Zimbabwe Newspapers Group and ZBC, have all been forced to retrench workers and reduce wages.
ZBC has been in chaos for years now due to mismanagement and corruption and many workers there have not been paid for months. The so-called salary-gate scandal saw CEO Happison Muchechetere suspended after it was revealed that he was earning $40,000 a month while ZBC accumulated huge debts.
Alpha Media has reportedly changed their business model to cut costs, taking steps that included voluntary retrenchments and reduction of some benefits. Management at Zimpapers have also reportedly announced that are considering cutting salaries by 20% and reducing some benefits.
Alpha Media chairman Trevor Ncube is quoted as saying: “We have to realise and accept that the world is changing as far as media and related businesses are concerned. The growth of the internet and online or digital media space is affecting how we do business,” Ncube said.
Zimbabwean writer and journalist Geoff Hill agreed, but stressed that company closures in Zimbabwe have reduced advertising revenue a great deal.
“The newspapers in Australia are in the most terrible decline. In America, as you know I worked for the Washington Times, newspapers have gone into receivership right across the country. Now in Zimbabwe where the economy has also collapsed, where are you going to get advertising dollars,” Hill told SW Radio Africa.
Hill criticized Information Minister Jonathan Moyo and the Media Panel of Inquiry, saying Moyo should resign and be exiled to Mongolia.
He also lamented the closure of the London based SW Radio Africa, which has stopped its shortwave radio broadcasts and will shut down completely over the weekend. He added that it is the quality of the radio station’s news and analysis that will be missed the most. SW Radio Africa