By Parkie Mbozi

THE PAST days and weeks the news media – local and international – have been awash with a plethora of statements, perceptions and debates about the justice or lack of it relating to the punishment inflicted on Prime TV by the ‘Independent’ Broadcasting Authority (IBA) on 4th March 2019.

The perceptions have all been bordered on the fairness of closing down the stations, albeit only temporarily. You could almost say the perceptions are as divided and polarized as the country’s politics. I will add to the debate but by contextualizing it to the flaws in the provisions of the relevant (current) law – the IBA Act. Like the saying goes, “the devil is in the detail.”

Short of full facts about the circumstances leading up to the punitive actions meted by the IBA on the affected stations, I will focus on the history and formulation of the IBA Act and resultant perceptions in moments like this. The current Minister of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services (MIBS) – Hon Dora Siliya – as an opposition MMD MP then, while debating in Parliament, once recited the famous quote, “Perception is reality.” This means that, “If you are perceived to be something, you might as well be it because that’s the truth in people’s minds” (quote from the Internet). I will add Ivanka Trump’s quote, “Perception is more important than reality. If someone perceives something to be true, it is more important than if it is in fact true.” Wise words indeed!

So, using the above wonderful analogies, let us dwell on the perceptions under the present circumstance, assuming that indeed “perception is reality”. Reading from the plethora of comments on the 30-day suspension of Prime TV, the perception one gathers is that THE IBA IS NOT INDEPENDENT AND FAIR. The statement by the three church mother bodies released on 6th March 2019 was succinct but loud enough on this. The IBA must contend and deal with this ‘picture in the head’, whether real or imagined, unfortunately.

So, where does the above perception come from? To put it into context, we have to refer to the provisions of the IBA Act, in its present form. I say “present form” because the Act has undergone two amendments since it was first assented in December 2002. From these two amendments, it has metamorphosed from one that would have created some semblance of a truly ‘Independent’ broadcasting regulatory authority to one that has ended up creating a parastatal, almost in its entirety. The original IBA Act was an architype of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) Act of 1999, where it seems to have been lifted from, almost word-for-word in some sections.

Yet, the founding ‘fathers’ of the Act foresaw the curse of taking the route we ended up taking through the two Amendments. They foresaw the would-be negative perceptions about the independence of the “Independent” Broadcasting Authority (IBA) that would be a product of the Act in its current form. The curse started under the MMD government who, for eight years after then President Levy Mwanawasa signed off the IBA Bill on 31st December 2002, refused to implement the Act simply for their displeasure with a name or two proposed by the ‘Appointments Committee’ to what would have been the first IBA Board. The ‘Appointments Committee was itself independently constituted by stakeholders as provided by 2002 law Act. Unfortunately, due this disagreement, the fundamental provision of ‘Appointments Committee’ was one of the casualties of the 2010 Amendment to the IBA Act.

To its credit, the Patriotic Front (PF) government went ahead to actualize the IBA Act in 2012, after the eight years of dilly dallying by the MMD government. However, by then the Act had been significantly Amended in 2010. The principles of an independent regulatory mechanism had been substituted for those of a government-led mechanism. The scenario was further worsened by the 2017 Amendment, which now impels the IBA to collect TV levies for one ZNBC, a key player in the industry. A case of the referee and a player wearing the same jersey and scoring into the same goal post? Back to PERCEPTION.

The two changes to the original Act are the genesis of the perceptions we witness today. So, what did the founding “fathers’ foresee and want to avoid? First, they wanted to see a truly independent broadcasting regulatory authority that would not only be fair but also seen to be fair. Like they say in law, justice must not only be delivered but also seen to be delivered. Back to PERCEPTION. Below are summaries of what the original (2002) IBA Act provided on key principles and how it has been amended – you could be excused to say maimed – by the Amendments of 2010 and 2017. Sadly, both Amendments are an assault on the principle of (perceived) independence of the IBA.

  1. The 2002 provision for an ‘Appointments Committee’, constituted by stakeholders (LAZ, MISA, PAZA, NGOCC, Church bodies, etc) for the purpose of recruiting (independent) IBA Board members through an open system, was totally deleted through the 2010 Amendment.
  2. Composition of Board: having done away with the ‘Appointments Committee” the function of recruiting IBA Board, the 2010 Amendment transferred the function to the Minister.
  3. Appointment of Board Chair and Vice would be done through internal elections (2002 Act). Currently the MIBS Permanent Secretary is the Chair, though not provided for in all three versions of the Act.
  4. Appointment of Director-General would have been done by the Independently Constituted Board (2002 Act). The reality is MIBS handled this function in 2012 even before a Board was in place. This happened at ZNBC and Times of Zambia as well.
  5. Collection of Television levy for ‘public service broadcasting’ (ZNBC the only public broadcaster, Section 22A of 2017 Act.). This was never there in the 2002 and 2010 Amendments. Introduced in the 2017 Amendment.

Unfortunately, typical of what we have become as a society, few bothered to READ, pay ATTENTION and DO SOMETHING when the original Act was being amended – not once but twice. One would be justified to say that Zambian the society has become one of a reactive rather than pro-active people, complainants rather actors and a society that pays attention to generalities rather than the details.

During the 2010 Amendment the ‘real’ opposition MPs were left to do battle in Parliament but they did not have the numbers; more so that almost half of the MPs of the main opposition then – the PF – had switched allegiance to the ruling MMD. Adding his voice to the topic at hand, MMD faction leader Felix Mutati is quoted that, “Suspension for me will injure tolerance” and added, “but they are denying the rest of us who enjoy the services to continue enjoying the services.” He may not remember that the Amendments the cabinet he was a member of made were the most devastating to the original IBA Act. Another case of not paying attention to detail and being reactive rather than pro-active?

The way forward is for stakeholders to ‘dialogue’ over, and re-look at, the IBA Act and possibly un-do the deed that was done and ‘exorcise’ the curse. A lesson has been learnt.

The author is media and communication scholar, research fellow and PhD candidate based in South Africa.

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23 COMMENTS

    • As long as Davis Mwila or any other cadre has power to shut down Prime TV or any other unfriendly tv or radio station, then IBA is as useless as used tissue paper.

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    • Thanks Parkie, this is so well articulated but are Josephine Mapoma and Chanda Kasolo able to comprehend?

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    • “The way forward is for stakeholders to ‘dialogue’ over, and re-look at, the IBA Act and possibly un-do the deed that was done and ‘exorcise’ the curse. A lesson has been learnt.”

      I hope when you say dialogue, you don’t mean debate in Parliament not tuma double h inspired talk about dark corner sugar coated dialogue. I envisage that not happening because double h’s parliamentarians hate parley and it’s debates. Double h has usurped their power. They are impotent. As for IBA, it’s your buddy if you’re in power and a foe if you’re in opposition. There are alot of social problems in the world that a TV station should be covering instead of covering politics all the time.
      The IBA Act is just fine.

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    • The overarching issue is governance and leadership..that’s what’s wrong with this country. Selfish ill educated leaders and civil servants who are cadres…the irony of IBA is that if PF were to be suddenly in opposition they too would complain about this as they are shortsighted…no wonder the ill-educated Party SG seems more powerful in such an environment.

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  1. MMD did not implement 2002 draft due to some “perceived contentious clauses”. Another indication that when in power, democracy is but a window dressing. The actual intent is to rule with absolute power. So we must go back to the 2002 draft and remove the curse. Independence of the media and its regulatory authority is crucial for democracy to thrive.

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  2. What is so special about this Prime TV kanshi. The abrogated the rules and every Jim and Jack with opposition trait in their blood is busy defending their recklessness. Funny those whose licenses were revoked are not even being talked about. Has shonongo bewitched even the Church?

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  3. I think the author of this article is too myopic and is full of plagiarism and hopefully the University or college that is mediating his PHD degree should thoroughly subject his work to intelligent anti-plagiarism software. Look, IBA issues operations licences with terms and conditions, of which when you sign it, you are agreeing to operate within those terms. Prime TV in particular, isnt a special thing that it can abrogate the rules simply because someone with hidden political agenda is behind it. We all know that HH has never respected anyone including those that support him, him sole objective is to be president. This is evidendenced by the very fact that since Mazoka died, (MHSRIP), this guy believes no one can lead UPND but him alone. F00lishly, he has even blinded himself so much…

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  4. contd
    F00lishly, he has even blinded himself so much that he thinks that myopic and warped thinking can be applied at National level. Let me ask HH this question, who on earth has told you that ONLY you and you alone is the next president of Zambia? Bwana, presidency is not an appointment position but elective and if the voters dont approve you, you just cant do nothing about it. Let this sink in that oval head of yours HH and the more you try and bring ridicule and chaos in this country the more you will be embarrassed through the ballot. People know you ill intentions and we cab bet, they will NEVER give that power to you, please understand, its this simple. The next President of Zambia after Lungu in 2026 is yet to be known, tafilubika! So stop using underhand methods like the media…

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  5. contd
    The next President of Zambia after Lungu in 2026 is yet to be known, tafilubika! So stop using underhand methods like the media (Prime TV) to put the lives of innocent workers in danger.

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  6. @its political you said,”you just look at author…! You are the, discriminatory, tribal kind your perception are influenced your demented tribalistic mind, wisdom does not come by tribe. Don’t judge the book by the cover, it is said, “the devil is in the details.”
    @albert, What is so special about this Prime TV kanshi? Wake up, zambia is supposed to be a democracy, Prime TV. represents the views of a very big junk of the Zambian population who don’t want to listen to the views that you love to listen, by suppressing the Prime TV you invade their space and destabilizing the national…

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  7. Perfect analysis. But won’t be effective coz as the Greeks say, ‘those whom the gods would destroy,they first make mad.’ Thinkers in Zed are called ba ‘some of us’!

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  8. l have said it before, there is nothing in reporting. Every sphere of life has rules written or not. even in the toilet there are procedures to follow or else one will mess up oneself. Yes freedom of speech, but has limits and the job of government is to ensure sanity prevails. There is a chain of warnings concerning PTV, but decided to be deviant. You can still take on government through responsible reporting. Its not only by being problematic.

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  9. That’s what I refer to as USELESS OPPOSITION. Where was upnd when the 2017 amendment was being done?? If they had highlighted this issue, sensitized and mobilised the population, even the PF supporters would have been on their side. But ka inde and upmd spend all their time planning how to insult and ridicule ECL. EFF of RSA wouldn’t have let the 2017 amendment pass!! Kano putting rocks on the road for the president-1.d.i.ot!!

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  10. RTSA deals with errant motorists,ZICTA deals with errant communications providers,ZRA deals with errant tax payers,ZP,DEC and ACC deals with criminals,MSD with errant miners,so why shouldn’t IBA caution a broadcaster who has a fervent appetite of frustrating government 24/7.Prime TV’s main pre-occupation is to form a perception that government is wrong, corrupt, untrustworthy, monstrous and up to no good all the time.Thats not fair.They have no goodwill for the country.

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  11. Well articulated Parkie, I totally agree with your analysis. The problem is we don’t read, we are quick to amend everything. Look at the constitution, typical. This act needs to be amended back to it’s original form in 2002. Criminals taking advantage of the majority.

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  12. You deserve to get your Phd sir.
    No need to refer to Rwanda genocide or HH on this one.

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  13. The mbozis I know have a DNA of UPND.NOTHING GOOD THAT PF GOVERNMENT CAN DO THEM.

    They are like the mwiimbus ,katukas etc.

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  14. Issues of wanting to eat with both hands is now haunting us; those that were supposed to have stopped the DEVIL in the DETAIL chose not to do,,,,So now what next. Just to dance to the tune and wait for the next amendment whenever it shall come ????????

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