WORKERS at the Namibian Broadcasting Cooperation are in a state of panic following the announcement of the retrenchment of 156 workers, starting yesterday.
This comes after NBC’s board chairperson Sven Thieme disclosed on Monday that the national broadcaster was under financial stress, and needed to take measures to cut costs in order to avoid possible liquidation.
He said not only would there be job losses, but the coverage of the national elections set for November would also be affected if at least N$385 million is not provided by the government.
Plans are thus in motion to reduce the staff complement from 569 to 413 employees, starting yesterday.
NBC also had a staff reduction in 2017 from 618 to 571.
Thieme added in a statement that the NBC had done away with directors’ fees, while the airing of TV news had been reduced to once per day, while staff travel would be minimised and productions would be limited effectively.
“The current situation also risks limitations in the coverage of the upcoming presidential and National Assembly elections, unless this production is fully financially supported.”
Some employees told The Namibian that they have been in modes of panic ever since the announcement was made, but their union’s shop stewards have been trying to allay their fears.
NBC shop steward Kephas Hembapu said all employees must be assured that they will do their best to ensure that there will be no job losses, despite announcements to the contrary.
He noted that they met the board last week before the announcement was made, and their stance remains that the NBC comes up with whatever measures to cut costs as long as there would be no lay-offs.
“People are obviously panicking, and it is normal to do so when you hear that 150 people will lose their jobs while you work for that company,” said Hembapu.
According to him, no notification of employment termination has been issued yet.
Information and communication technology minister Stanley Simataa said the government will not allow people to lose their jobs, as it will feed into the already bulging bubble of the unemployed.
“We need to sit down and find a long-term solution because we cannot continue with this situation every financial year,” stated Simataa. The minister said the NBC should look at its operations, and find ways to ensure that they have a staff complement which is in line with its resources, as retrenchment must be the last option.
“The reduction in their funding over the years has definitely made an impact, and we need to see how we as a government can provide them with the needed resources,” he continued.
During the past four financial years, funding to the broadcaster has been reduced steadily from N$$237 million in 2014 to N$140 million in the current financial year.
Some of the austerity measures announced by the NBC board chairperson include limited broadcasting on NBC1 from 24 hours to 07h00-21h00 programming, while the English news bulletin will only run once per day at 20h00.
Additionally, all local and other indigenous language news bulletins have been terminated from the broadcaster.
The Namibian reported that the NBC generated more than N$100 million in revenue annually between 2014 and 2018.
The reduction in the government subsidy to the NBC had resulted in a budget deficit of about N$244 million, which they have to cover from the entity’s own revenue.
Rally for Democracy and Progress president Mike Kavekotora said the fact that there will be limited broadcasting during elections would affect the democratic process which Namibians have come to know.
“This is a blow to the democratic process, and it affects the credibility of our electoral process. Opposition parties do not get as much coverage already, as it is, and one wonders what coverage they would get if this is the case,” he reasoned.