MPs label the state broadcaster as ineffective, fruitless
Members of the House of Peoples’ Representatives (HPR) have scolded the state broadcaster, Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation (EBC), for producing less important programs and becoming institutionally competent. The House, in its sixth regular meeting held on Thursday, approved a proclamation to re-establish the EBC.
The new re-establishment proclamation incorporates articles that would punish television owners who fail to pay a 120-birr annual service fee. The fine ranges from 500 to 5000 birr, and a prison sentence carries one to six months’ imprisonment.
If the enterprises use a television set for hotels, guesthouses, or other entertainment services, they must pay their annual television set usage fee all at once, and their trade license will not be renewed unless they bring a written confirmation from the Corporation attesting that they have met their annual television fee obligations, according to the proclamation.
The corporation is expected to sign a cooperation agreement with the Ethiopian Electric Utility (EEU) outlining the amount of the commission to be paid to the EEU based on the coop agreement.
The Chair of the Parliament’s Legal, Justice, and Democratic Affairs Standing Committee, Etsegent Menegistu, explained what triggered the need to re-establish the corporation. Etsegent stressed the need to modernize the institution and deliver better media service that would satisfy the public and encourage it to pay an annual service fee in return.
Members of Parliament (MPs) blasted the corporation as unproductive and ineffective in comparison to other recently established local media networks. Asemahegne Asires, an MP, chastised EBC for being less prominent than the BBC and Al Jazeera, despite its more than seven-decade existence.
“It doesn’t matter whether we pay for television service or not until the EBC commits to becoming at least a preferred media station in Eastern Africa,” Asemahegne said, noting that Ethiopia is home to the African Union headquarters.
The MP requested that the state broadcaster be free of party leaders and not a mouthpiece for officials. “Why is the public compelled to pay for television services if the corporation does not provide quality programming. Yet, YouTubers feed the public better than this medium, regardless of the quality of the program,” he said.
Another MP, Asheber Weldgiorgis (Ph.D.), said that instead of preparing for competition, the eminence of the institution has been downgraded from time to time. “I always watch EBC, but I do not pay a service fee because they do not have an attractive program and they are not reachable by the international community.”
“Unless it is productive, why are we supporting this institution?” asked Asheber. “Okay, let us pay the television service fee, but the Ministry of Finance should collect the money. We have watched several YouTubers earn millions of dollars, and we are being asked to assist an incompetent institution that cannot produce sensible programming.”
Similarly, Ayle Negeri stressed the lack of innovative and exciting topics and programs. “It always speaks about things that were already covered by another media outlet a week earlier,” Ayle said.
In response to MPS queries, Etsegent stated that the need for financial assistance stems from the desire to see a highly promising medium that everyone envisions.
Of the 240 MPs who attended the session, 44 voted against it and 24 abstained, with the majority approving the reestablishment proclamation.