Zimbabwe to get 10 new radio stations

By Staff reporter | 05 Apr 2019 at 08:22hrs
Government is this year expected to issue community radio broadcasting licences to 10 private operators as part of its reform agenda to open the airwaves in the growing industry with foreign players expected to share 20 percent of the market.  

The move, apart from creating a competitive environment in the broadcasting sector, is in line with the country's constitutional provisions for media variety.  There are 8 community radio stations that are presently operating in Zimbabwe.

In an interview with StarFM on Wednesday evening, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Permanent Secretary Mr Nick Mangwana said his ministry has budgeted $98 000 to support the initiative.

"In our plan this year, we have already budgeted $98 000, this money is for community radio stations, which we used to support," he said.

"Parliament has approved 10 community radio stations that will be issued this year. The money is there to support this. We are holding the money and it is losing value."  

Mr Mangwana explained why it was necessary to speed up the alignment of the Broadcasting Services Act with Constitution. He said the Act is one of the many pieces of legislation that is not in sync with the Constitution and there are a lot of things that needed to be put in place.

"One of the major ones being that since the Act came in place in 2001 technology has moved on," he said.

 "There are things that have become obsolete. There are sections that are pretty much irrelevant and with the advent of this new technology it also means that we broadcast differently from the way we were broadcasting 18 years ago, when the Act came into place in 2001."

Mr Mangwana said there was need to modernise the Act, which among other things to align it with treaties Zimbabwe is signatory to internationally and regionally.  

He said in the Broadcasting Service Amendment Bill, Government underscores the need to make a distinction between the licencing online platforms and licencing normal broadcasting services, which uses the frequency spectrum.  

"When it comes to current interpretation that we have is that there should be a call out made by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ), which is a regulator for people to come and apply for licences, any one of those licences," he said.

"Our interpretations could be different but we need it to be very clear in the incoming Bill that only licences that require the use of the national resource, which is the frequency spectrum will need to have a public inquiry and would need the authority to call out for a particular genre."

Mr Mangwana said Government has no problem when it comes to issuing licences that have no bearing on the frequency spectrum.

"Those ones should be applied for anytime, any day and they should be given anytime any day because they do not have any bearing on a depleting resource," he said.

"So, if we can issue 3000, or 10 000 of those licences, by all means let us do so they are depriving nobody of anything. So we need that distinction to be made."  

Still on the issue of call out, Mr Mangwana said there also need to define how many terms a year that BAZ should call out for people to come and apply for those particular licences that use the frequency spectrum.  

"So, we propose that three terms per year at known frequencies and known time. There should be a call out. At the moment we do not have that. We can actually go for three years if people are abusing their positions without BAZ calling out for such licences."  

Mr Mangwana said the current Act, provides that licences for community radio stations should only be granted to corporate bodies, yet they are called community radio licences.

"In the current BSA we are saying that licences should only be granted to corporate bodies but we are calling these community radio licences.  How does a community and corporate converge so we want to amend that to say communities can own these (community radio stations) they don't have to be corporates they can be trusts and they should be able to own these and community radio stations. I think those are the key issues that stand out."  

Cabinet recently approved the repeal of the Access to Information and Privacy Protection Act (Aippa) and reconstruction of media laws to align with the Constitution, in a major development for the media sector.



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