A GLIMPSE INTO A TV STATION WITH A REGIME CHANGE AGENDA.
By Wilfred Sameta
The Suspension of the Prime TV license is a sad development that has been festering for some time.
Those of us who have followed this media house from the time it was born in 2013 took pride in its Zambian ownership and were very happy with their variety of programming with emphasis on local content including traditional and cultural content; and even my tribal mbuyas very silly but nice social commentary in the form of comedy by the Mazabuka boys and their muvela va mene ni fotokoza banter.
Prime TV signal at the time was generally poor and the news presentation was punctuated with poor grammar and misspellings in their graphics. But those were just teething problems and they began to improve even though they still have a lot of misspellings in their graphics.
On the news side of things, they introduced a fresh kind of programming from as far back as 2013 which included *Introspection*, *News Analysis*, *Prime TV Update* and *Oxygen of Democracy. programmes. Most of these were anchored by the Ayatollah- like bewhiskered Kasebamashila Kaseba, dressed in his signature African Print Shirts. The news analyses mostly ended up being critical of government.
At their inception, these programmes featured a variety of players across the political landscape, and although they were often highly critical of government, they were by and large within the minimal confines of acceptable journalism and were crucial to holding the governing powers accountable. However, as time went by, the criticism eventually swung to the extreme, and it became borderline partisan.
Around December 2016, with the rolling out of Top Star as the sole carrier of digital television in Zambia, Prime TV was included on this platform. And with the TV Station being added to the DSTV bouquet in the third quarter of 2017, not only did Prime TV picture and sound significantly improve to HD quality, but their increased viewership and advertising revenues also followed suit on the upward trajectory.(Sadly workers emoluments remained stunted).
AN INSIGHT INTO PRIME TV’S INTERNAL UN PROFESSIONALISM AS SEEN THROUGH THE EYES FORMER STAFFER KASEBAMASHILA
It is very interesting that these other wise positive developments coincided with Prime TV surreptitiously parting company with Kasebashila Kaseba in unexplained circumstances. Whether this was by design or default is anybody’s guess.
Kaseba highlighted his displeasure with the stations lack of Human Resource Ethics on his face book page as per following extract:
- “I have not featured on Prime Television for Introspection, News Analysis, Prime TV Update and Oxygen of Democracy programmes for the last four months since Friday, 17th August, 2018.”
- “To that day, since the year review of December 2013, I had been on Prime TV for just four months below five years and on News Analysis since Tuesday, 05th April, 2016 among other programmes.”
- “…I acknowledge receipt of the innumerable phone calls, social media comments, Prime TV questions, SMSs of solidarity or whereabouts and welfare.”
- ” Sadly, I have received these questions without answer.”
On the other hand, Prime TV, too, though duty bound to answer, has not just refused to answer the questions of my absence but also refused to explain the presence and performance appraisals of replacements.”
- “Instead, Prime TV sought public sympathy and played victim of me.”
- “For example, while I kept quiet and away from other media outlets, Prime TV in a matter of hours engaged my replacements or displacements for Introspection, News Analysis and Oxygen of Democracy, without my information and handover either as producer or presenter or news analyst.”
- “In a sense, Prime TV eagerly befriended and overcompensated the new with fresh negotiations and estranged the old by stalling the negotiations with silent treatment and constructive dismissal.”
- “The new were only not facilitated to succeed the old but also negotiated for the old or produced for the old. It seemed an offense and insubordination of the old to negotiate for self and negotiate for the new. The old was frustrated and punished even for negotiation or doing right whereas the new got rewarded even for wrong or underperformance. It also seemed long service was an offense.”
- “Prime TV conducted a hostile takeover using divide and*_ _rule of the new against the old plus constructive dismissal that, exploited *unprofessionalism*, *desperation*, *opportunism* and *treachery by the new”.*
- “For example, *there was unprofessionalism, desperation, opportunism and treachery of the part of the new* because despite being informed of the negotiation, the new deliberately ignored the negotiation in order to benefit from the stalled negotiation and the situation”
- Otherwise, there were other Prime TV frustration and interference of the old. For example, on 27th January, 2017, analysis of five minutes was arbitrary cut to two minutes.”
- “Again, at the start of 2018 there was another attempt to cut analysis from 10 to five minutes.”
- “While there is no argument, not from me, who the proprietor of Prime TV is and Prime TV is a member of Media Owners Association, there is an argument, from Prime TV, as who is the producer and presenter of Introspection and News Analysis and *Prime TV has no labour union”.
- In a normal situation, such arguments of interference and censorship are offenses just as the censorship by MOIBS and IBA.
- Further, Prime TV does not believe in unionism, negotiation or separation by mutual consent.”
Mr. Kasebamashila gut wrenching choice of words describing his unceremonious severance from the Prime TV is very revealing of the inner going ons.
He says there was a *_”hostile takeover”_* of the current affairs programmes particularly News Analysis segment, Oxygen of Democracy and Introspection.
SIMUWE A PRIME TV MEMBER OF UPND MEDIA TEAM PUSHING FOR REGIME CHANGE
At the centre of the Hostile Takeover was Mark Simuwe- a personality known for his fierce anti-government style while he was a presenter on UNZA Radio’s Lusaka Star. Simuwe is a known active member of the United Party for National Development (UPND) Media Team, so his objectives and agenda are obvious.
While Kaseba often became vehement and emotional in his interaction with viewers who disagreed with his fierce criticism of the Government, the experienced journalist in him would periodically turn the spot light of his scathing analysis on the UPND and its leader as well as other political parties in a bid to balance his analyses.
Yet, although Kasebamashila is a fierce critic of the government, his Evelyn College old school journalism training and practise forbades him to abandon his professional ethics and unconditionally prostrate before HH to be used as a tool for civil disobedience and regime change.
However when Simuwe took over, he sold his soul to HH and he entered the fray like a new partisan sheriff on steroids, with guns blazing from his high horse; Shooting to kill anything PF no matter how good it was; while massaging and mitigating anything UPND no matter how gruesome or atrocious it was.
If Kasebamashila was a critic; then Simuwe lowered the the scale to sub levels of acceptable journalism right down to the gutter of hostile opportunistic and arrogant cynicism. They had sunk to the depths of yellow journalism.
Prime TV News Analysis became a segment of partisan journalism bent on stirring up anti-government sentiment and regime change.
While news is unpredictable because anything can happen at any time, Simuwes analyses and programme presentations where predictable for two things; firstly, his analyses would be boasful in the manner of an overzealous new-to-knowledge simpleton; secondly the PF government would always take a bashing and the UPND would get a spa-style massage.
Prime TV news and current affairs programmes became heavily opinionated in their delivery, and out right disparaging of the government in their content.
The Prime TV News broadcast of Saturday 9th February 2019 which has led to the suspension of their license for 30 days carried a sensational and inflammatory lead story _”ARMED STATE POLICE, PF CADRES CHASE OF HH IN THICK FOREST TOOK EIGHT HOURS”_ .
This distorted story- that was really a piece of dramatized fake news was cooked by Simuwe in the Prime TV News Room in conjunction with his colleagues in the UPND Media Team.
It was designed to stir up a revolt and civil disobedience against government.
Those of us with kith and kin in Sesheke actually received reports about a known Prime TV Camera man campaigning alongside HH whilst wearing regalia for UPND and filming at the same time. In fact Mr. HH was also directly involved as a producer as evidenced in part of the footage where he is heard and seen directing the cameraman regarding where to focus the camera.
This is highly irregular in journalism.
To apply Kasebamashila Kasebas phrase; there was unprofessionalism, desperation, opportunism and treachery of the part of the new(Simuwe and Prime TVs UPND linked news room).
All the adjectives that describe yellow journalism!
In Part 2 I share and reflect on how yellow journalism has landed Prime TV a K5,000,000 (Five million Kwacha) law suit.
The Author is a Retired Social Scientist turned Agrarian residing in Central Province