BCB: Govt allocation of$4.25m too low
The Broadcasting Corporation of The Bahamas(BCB)says the government’s budgetary allocation of$4.25 million to BCB is too low.
This came in the BCB’s response to the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority’s(URCA) public consultation document on public service broadcasting, which was released in January.
“In 2010 the corporation’s advertising revenue was$5.337 million with expenditures of$15.016 million. The government provided a subsidy of$8.867 million in 2010. This was reduced to$4.25 million in 2011. The corporation in its efforts to reduce costs underwent a reorganization that saw a 35 percent reduction in staff,”said the BCB.
“The corporation also has an urgent need to service a number of outstanding dated financial obligations inclusive of the Performing Rights Society, National Insurance, the Bahamas Electricity Corporation and its employee pension fund,”the corporation added.
The BCB stressed that it appreciates that given the funding options available the mixed funding model, in which ZNS Network receives a grant from Parliament and is allowed to generate income from advertising and sponsorship, is the best possible compromise.
“We believe that ZNS should sell advertising at full market rates, because as the public service broadcaster receiving a parliamentary grant and generating advertising, we should not be seen to be undercutting the market rates,”BCB said in the response.
The corporation added that it is always interested in alternative revenue streams. It charged that the exploitation of intellectual property in secondary markets is possible, but at the moment is not well organized and is unlikely to generate significant revenue in the near term.
“The corporation is also challenged in that most of its archival material remains in an analog format,”noted the response.
In its January recommendations, URCA argued for laws to be enacted preventing political interference at the state-owned broadcaster.
The authority called for laws ensuring”absolute editorial independence covering all of its programs and services.”
In its response released on Friday, the BCB agreed that a new governance structure is critical to ensure the transformation of the BCB into an independent public service broadcaster.
BCB sad it agreed generally with the proposed corporate governance arrangements recommended by URCA.
Currently, the Broadcasting Act, and other relevant legislation related to ZNS, gives the government direct control over the station. The government appoints the ZNS board, and the minister responsible for broadcasting can exercise direct control over content at the broadcaster.
URCA also made recommendations for the absolute separation of functions between the ZNS board and its executive management team.
Both the Free National Movement(FNM)and the Progressive Liberal Party(PLP)have been accused of using ZNS to disseminate political propaganda.
The BCB claimed that three quarters of the population watches its evening news, which airs between 7:00 and 8:00 o’clock nightly.
But, it noted that one surprise is the significant drop off in radio listening levels in the evening, as well as the finding that Bahamians listen to radio one-and-a-half hours per day.
“There is obviously a need, if these figures hold true, to review our radio programming offerings in the evenings,”said the BCB. In addition it noted that 83 percent of Bahamians watch overseas channels.
“While two thirds of respondents were satisfied with the programming on ZNS TV, there is obviously a need to produce more local television programs that will appeal to our audiences. We recognize that news represents a central part of ZNS’programming and our most significant program, and we were pleased that this was borne out by the strong audience satisfaction with this program,”said the BCB.
The corporation said it is concerned with the weak showing with respect to ZNS news production values, and pointed out that it is currently taking steps to enhance the production value of all of its television programs by upgrading from an analog system to a digital television format.
“News is the one source of information Bahamians from Grand Bahama in the north to Inagua in the south have relied upon for information of what is happening in the country. We are of the view that the archipelagic nature of The Bahamas has increased the role of news as a means of uniting people,”said the BCB.