ZBH, filmmakers lock horns

HARARE - Local filmmakers are up in arms with the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings, ZBH, whom they accuse of failing to pay them for their work.

They also accused ZBH of buying cheap productions from amateur producers.

Film Makers Guild of Zimbabwe Trust, ZFG director Nocks Chatiza, says filmmakers are still owed a lot of money by the corporation and because of these reasons they had deliberately boycotted submitting their material to ZBH.

“As experienced and mature filmmakers, we decided over the years to passively boycott ZBH because we were getting a raw deal. They were now relying on upcoming and young filmmakers who were desperate enough to push their names,” says Chatiza.

The ZBH recently called on filmmakers to submit material to the broadcaster for consideration.

Chatiza says there is no transparency in the ongoing selection of independent producers’ concepts and a report his organisation recently released alleges that some independent producers are already in the pitching stage and others having signed contracts with the public broadcaster.

“When we held our meeting some producers alleged ZBC had stopped accepting productions.”

Gladman Farai Bandama, corporate communications manager at ZBH says because of critical content, “ZBC has never stopped, postponed or delayed the receipt or processing of independent local productions. It would indeed be foolhardy to reject some programmes despite the acute shortage of the same.”

Bandama says it is true that they owe a number of our clients various amounts for the work that they either submitted or participated in over the years, dating back to 2010.

“The challenges that bedeviled the corporation are in the public domain and these led to failure to meet a number of our obligations including paying our clients and other stakeholders.

“We sincerely regret this while also acknowledging their importance in sustaining our television content requirements,” says Bandira.

He adds that in the present circumstances, despite our continued under-performance due to the shrinkage of advertising budgets of most corporates, ZBH has made and continues to strive to settle outstanding payments.

“It is our plan that the outstanding amounts will be liquidated in the very near future, but of course determined by the availability of the financial resources.”

The filmmakers also accused ZBH of not prioritising their works blaming the corporation’s poor communication skills.

“How secure are producers’ concepts since it takes very long to get feedback from ZBH on whether they were successful, and when they are not, they don’t get any feedback at all?

“ZBH are not consistent in their communication when they receive concepts and proposals from independent producers. Sometimes they take three weeks to nine weeks without communication. If they turn down a concept they don’t report back why?”

Bandama says those that submit material would be notified of their entries. “Due to the overwhelming submission of concepts and productions, the speed of response had been rather tedious.

“However, all concepts submitted are being or will be acknowledged and a register of each submission is being kept.

“Likewise, it is our plan, despite the volumes of concepts submitted to date, that every submission will be acknowledged within a month and where relevant, contracts drawn and signed in the space of a month.”

ZFG also felt that ZBH’s advertisement sharing method of compensating or acquiring content is not practical.

“It is anti-production because filmmakers need to focus on making films or creating content rather than looking for advertisers.

“Producers are not marketing people, the ZBH marketing team should be doing their work to get advertisers who pay and the broadcaster should give producers the budget that is enough to sustain the production and motivate professionals to deliver quality productions that attract advertisers.”

Bandama says the issue of filmmakers having to look for advertising during their programme slots is one that must be interpreted in the historical context. 

“The national broadcaster has experienced some challenges in the past; indeed, some of them the result of internal dynamics, while others can be traced to problems that the business sector has faced and directly influencing advertising and therefore, revenue inflows.

“When a filmmaker brings content to the national broadcaster and revenue inflows are normal, ZBH pays and assumes rights over the production.

“This would place the responsibility of seeking for adverts or sponsorship for the programme entirely on the shoulders of ZBH and indeed, our marketing department.

“However, due to financial constraints, ZBH had no commissioning budget and therefore found itself unable to fund the productions in line with the value of the products.

“In order to compensate the filmmakers for their submissions and facilitate their broadcast, an airtime sharing arrangement was devised where the owner/s of the production were allowed a portion of the advertising airtime during the broadcast of their programme.

“The arrangement was also based on the expectation that the filmmakers would have been able to solicit for sponsorship to fund the production.”

The filmmakers were also not happy with ZBH editors and producers seconded to work with the filmmakers who they say were not creative and good enough to select good content.

Bandama said skills levels in examining productions have never fallen short of the prescribed expertise levels. “However, this must be understood to reflect the shrinking skills base overally within the sector in relation to its growth and the failure to attract the skills due to the already cited challenges.

“However, having said that, the corporation, acknowledging the need to have the correct skills to evaluate the different genres of the productions, has reintroduced a team of adjudicators drawn from across the arts industry.

“These include such renowned gurus in the industry as Aaron Chiwundura Moyo, Nicholas Moyo and Mlilo and others. They have been incorporated into a team of assessors responsible for evaluating or selection of local independent productions.”

Bandama says the 40 percent of the 75 percent local content requirement for television prescribed in the Broadcasting Services Act, means that a lot of content is expected and required from independent producers.

“However, the challenges that have affected the country and economy have seen a marked decline in the volumes of independent productions.

“In 2012, independent productions stood at just eight percent, growing to 16 percent in 2013. In 2014 moving onto 2015, productions began to shrink again, a reflection of the debilitating challenges that independent producers and the industry at large have been grappling with.

“The reason for the low uptake of the local content quota is not only a sign of the financial resources constraints of the sector, but an indicator of the desperate need for local productions overall.

“The small proportion of independent local productions has placed serious pressure on the national broadcaster leading sometimes, to acceptance of programmes that would, if the quota was being easily met, fail to meet the criteria for selection of such content.”

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