|VOA pirate radio station broke|
|Saturday, 14 July 2012 21:34|
News EditorVOICE of America (VOA)’s pirate radio station project in Zimbabwe, Studio 7, is facing financial difficulties after a major donor cut its funding, a situation that is set to deal a major blow to the campaign of mass deception and propaganda directed at the country and its leadership.
Studio 7 started broadcasting illegally in Zimbabwe in 2003 after the US launched an anti-Zimbabwe campaign as a response to the land reform programme which began in the year 2000. It has been running stories that seek to portray Zimbabwe as a failed State.
According to a communiqué written to all the pirate station’s correspondents, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) — a US government agency that provides relief aid to developing countries in order to promote that country’s version of democracy — “drastically’’ cut funding to Studio 7, forcing the station to reduce assignments and payments to all correspondents.
Last year the US passed a bill cutting the US$1,35 billion USAID operations budget to around US$900 million.
Sunday News is in possession of a copy of the communiqué which was written by VOA’s Scot Riddlesberger to all correspondents, both local and those on self-imposed exile in the US.
“As you may have heard, the USAID has drastically reduced the amount of grant money that it will be giving towards VOA’s Zimbabwe project (Studio 7) in the coming fiscal year. We cannot continue to operate as we are without the full funding that has been available to us in prior years. A significant shortfall calls for a significant change in spending. You have already been advised of specific reductions in the number of monthly assignments you may do.
“Beginning 1 October 2012, it will be necessary to reduce the rates that have been set for stringer reports. The rates will be US$65 for a news report and US$100 for a feature story. You will not be able to increase the number of monthly assignments that has recently been communicated to you,’’ Riddlesberger wrote to the correspondents.
“This is not a comfortable message to convey, but we all must be on the same page as we approach a new year of Studio 7 programming.’’
Studio 7 correspondents, who spoke to us on condition of anonymity, said panic had gripped the pirate radio station as there was fear that even the workforce would be cut.
“At first they cut the number of assignments and now it’s the money. We are in trouble. We could soon find ourselves hunting for legal jobs,’’ one correspondent said.
Ever since its launch, Studio 7 has been working flat out to discredit President Mugabe while propping up the image of PM Tsvangirai.
The operations of pirate radio stations in the country have been one of the major sticky issues in the inclusive Government. The PM Tsvangirai-led MDC reneged on its position to call for the disbandment of these radio stations.
There are three pirate radio stations broadcasting into Zimbabwe. The Voice of America operates Studio 7 that broadcasts from Washington DC daily. The other two stations are Voice of the People and Short Wave Radio Africa.
Government spokesperson and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Media, Information and Publicity, Cde George Charamba, was last year quoted as saying pirate radio stations beaming into Zimbabwe from outside the country were illegal.
“Just because they have telescopic technology does not legalise it. That technology compounds its illegality and the whole facility is illegal,” he said.