JOHANNESBURG — A privately-owned television station set up just two months ago to report on Zimbabwe elections has suspended operations because of a lack of funding, according to a statement Friday.
1st TV, which broadcast to Zimbabwe from neighbouring South Africa on a free-to-air satellite and via Internet, announced that it would suspend its operations on yesterday to look for funds.
“We have to go off air while we raise more resources and source more programmes,” the statement said.
The station was set up to broadcast “impartial, factual news” to counter State-backed channels, often favourable to President Robert Mugabe.
Zimbabwe currently has one television station owned by the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), which also runs four radio stations. Two independent television stations launched in the mid-1990s went off air following funding challenges.
Following the loss of the signal from South Africa’s SABC, Zimbabweans had relied on the Wiztech free-to-air platform to access alternative television stations.
But the backers of 1st TV vowed to soon be back on the air.
“Our pledge to you, is that when we return it will be on a permanent basis and it will be with improved entertainment programming, more soaps, movies and dramas as well as improved education, information and news programmes,” the statement said.
Zimbabweans, fed up with poor programming ZBC, had resorted to watching the South African channels on Wiztech, Philibao, Fortec Star and Vivid decoders before they were encrypted in July.
1st TV became an alternative source of news especially towards the July 31 elections where African observer missions noted that ZBC was heavily biased towards Zanu PF.
However, the Southern African Development Committee observer mission still endorsed the elections as free and fair despite noting the uneven playing field called for the closure of radio and television stations operating from outside the country.
Zanu PF said the stations were funded by governments that want to remove it from power.
But freedom of expression lobbyists say the foreign based broadcasters would not go anywhere as long as there was no plurality in the local broadcasting industry.