The National, Wednesday November 25th, 2015
THE National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) wasonce an iconic government organisation that began to crumble some years after independence due to operational and financial mismanagement issues, as well as the general lack of political support.
Communications and Information Technology Jimmy Miringtoro echoed this sentiment last year but blamed successive boards and managements for NBC’s demise and its ineptitude to modernize to keep abreast of the changing times.
Miringtoro’s rather blunt statement was prompted by the Auditor-General’s report on the NBC’s management and operations, which revealed instances of mismanagement of funds and assets running into millions of kina.
The minister did not mention the lack of budgetary support from Waigani as a contributing factor to the problems that have plagued NBC for much of its existence.
Nonetheless, Miringtoro directed the NBC board and management to take stock of their assets and implement the Auditor-General’s report.
Since then, acting Managing Director Memafu Kapera and his top managers have been slogging away to overhaul their operations and revamp NBC’s radio and television networks.
Kapera’s milestone achievement has been the rebranding of NBC, which was launched on September 28 this year and is starting to make a positive impact throughout the country.
The rebranding aims to commercialise some of NBC’s operations to sustain budget shortfalls and fund its three major capital works programmes worth K300 million. These projects are the rehabilitation of provincial radio stations, rollout of radio and TV into districts and the establishment of TRIBE FM, a national youth radio station that will address issues affecting 50 per cent of the population who are under 20 years.
Kapera says NBC needs K50m to operate effectively but has been receiving between K29m and K30m. Next year its funding will drop further to K25m.
“We have to commercialise some of our operations to fund our mandated community service obligation under the Broadcasting Act 1973 that is currently under review. The future of NBC is now to service the interests of alla Papua New Guineans on NBC Radio, NBCTV and NBC Online.”
NBC’s rebranding initiative was launched less than a month before Kapera’s contract expired and it was expected that he would hold the fort without any qualms until the National Executive Council (NEC) appointed a new MD.
While Minister Miringtoro supported Kapera by taking his expression of interest submission to the Ministerial Executive Appointments Committee (MEAC) to facilitate his reappointment, the NBC board thought otherwise.
Chairman Timothy Tala and his board intervened and threatened to refer the minister to the Ombudsman Commission, claiming they did not play a part in Kapera’s reappointment submission.
By then Kapera’s contract was about to expire and he informed Chief Secretary Sir Manasupe Zurenuoc that NBC would not have a head to oversee normal operations from October 14. To maintain continuity, Sir Manasupe directed that Kapera act as managing director from October 14 until a substantive appointment was made.
Interestingly, the NBC board has not accepted the Chief Secretary’s directive despite the fact that Sir Manasupe, as head of the Prime Minister’s Department and NEC, overseas records of annual appraisals of all heads of departments and state entities with the respective portfolio ministers.
We agree that Kapera should continue to hold office to allow the MEAC to facilitate the formal appointment of a new managing director.
It is illogical to replace him until that process is completed, especially at this crucial time when the NBC is implementing its rebranding initiatives.
Moreover, commonsense must prevail in the interests of NBC, its workforce and stakeholders, including the Government and people of Papua New Guinea.
Lest we forget, the national broadcaster was once the pride of this nation.
It was on NBC Radio that our first Governor General, Sir John Guise, made the independence declaration on September 16, 1975, in a historic message that was broadcast to all corners of the country.
NBC has covered all the major national and international events held in the country, including the very successful 2015 Pacific Games in July.
Indeed, it will take a long while before any other broadcaster can attempt to replace the NBC and competently do what they have been doing for the last 40 years.