Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe: a huge betrayal to the media fraternity

The Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) regulations stipulate that new players should start broadcasting within six months of getting a licence. Zimpapers' Talk Radio and Supa Mandiwanzira's AB Communications were awarded the licences six months ago yet it seems clear from the fact that Zimpapers Talk Radio is going ahead with the license after it announced that it will go on air three months from now.

The licensing of Zimpapers Talk Radio has raised eyebrows on whether the radio station will truly be independent as stipulated under the African Charter on Broadcasting, considering that the government, which is controlled by ZANU PF has a controlling stake in Zimpapers. The awarding of licences to Zanu PF -aligned broadcasters raised a lot of anger among Zimbabweans who felt this was a ploy to hoodwink facilitators of the power sharing agreement into believing that media reforms were in fact taking place while at the same time maintaining an iron grip on the airwaves. Indeed the awarding of broadcasting licenses to Zimpapers' Talk Radio and AB Communications was not a milestone in diversifying the media environment in Zimbabwe, but a major setback. Media diversity and plurality, is not only limited to the number of players but the quantity and miscellany of information circulated.

Awarding licenses to organisations controlled by ZANU-PF apologists is to give the nation a dosage of the same old voice. Zimpapers dominates the print media and is infamous for praise singing ZANU-PF. It is most likely that similar to Zimpapers print media publications, Talk Radio will be singing from the same hymn book in a bid to amplify ZANU-PF propaganda.

Recently, KISS FM a broadcasting company appealed to Parliament to help it in its quest to be awarded a radio license by BAZ citing that its last application was unfairly turned down. Another, Vox Media productions, owners of Radio Voice of the People (VOP), have again applied for a broadcasting licence for a Free-to-Air Local Commercial radio licence after being denied one last year. This is the third time the media organisation has applied for a radio licence. The first application was made in 2005 while the second was made in 2011. Last year Vox Media was invited for an interview by the BAZ which received 14 applications from different players. BAZ has deferred the issuing of commercial radio licences in a move some applicants believe is meant to ensure the airwaves remain under the grip of people aligned to Zanu PF.

It is important that BAZ licenses independent players in the broadcasting fraternity including community radio stations to widen access to information and promote freedom of expression which will in-turn offer communities platforms to engage in public debate, irrespective of their educational level, social standing or language.

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