BAZ concerned about media cross ownership

via BAZ concerned about media cross ownership | Radio Dialogue 4 September  2014 by Lulu Brenda Harris

THE Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) still has reservations on media cross ownership as government prepares to open up the airwaves to more players.

This came out at a two day public hearing for three prospective radio stations slugging it out for the single available commercial radio licence.

Two of the companies vying for the licence are owned by proprietors of existing media houses.

Media cross ownership is possession of two or more similar and related businesses in communications media especially in the same locality.

Previously, Chapter 12:06 of the Broadcasting Services Act was against cross ownership but the law has since been amended.

BAZ chairperson, Dr Tafataona Mahoso said in as much as cross ownership was now allowed, this did not mean the risks associated with market dominance would disappear.

On day one, Mahoso noted for media networks to survive, they had to be sympathetic to business interests and hone themselves into an advertiser-friendly medium.

He referred to SkyZ Metro FM, owned by Continueloving Mhlanga and Qhubani Moyo, which had proposed to allow advertisers to sponsor some of its programming.

Mahoso asked how the radio station would balance advertising interests that brought in money and interests of the public it wanted to serve.

In response, Moyo admitted this was a global concern but said Skyz Metro FM would strive to be pro public in its content and make sure advertisers were in sync with their programming.

“The radio station would be guided by the founding values of the constitution, which clearly defines what can be said or not,” he said.

On day two of the public hearings, Mahoso asked Skyz FM led by Trevor Ncube owner of Alpha Media Holdings, publishers of Southern Eye, NewsDay, The Standard and Zimbabwe Independent, how his radio station would protect the public from shoddy products that may be marketed through various medium owned by individuals.

He pointed out that the public will be prone to abuse when one media house began to operate a network of multiple media enterprises.

Commissioner Vimbai Chivaura also asked Ncube if he was not monopolising media since he already had a presence in Bulawayo and in Matabeleland, noting that from Skyz FM’s presentation, the station was chasing profit rather than culture preservation.

Ncube said in terms of safeguarding the public from shoddy products, the station stated it would play 70 percent of music while 30 percent will be programmes.

“This would be strictly guided by policy. We will make sure that the editorial side of our print publications do not interfere with the radio operations. It will be totally autonomous,” he said.

Vincent Kahiya, Editor in Chief of Alpha Media Holdings, added the radio station would conform to the supremacy of the constitution and would be guided by that in its programming.

Skyz FM also mentioned it will employ an ombudsman who would keep the radio in check, which prompted Mahoso to point out Newsday had blundered in its July 17 publication where it featured convicted rapist and prophet Martin Robert Gumbura’s children on the front page accompanied by an inappropriate headline.

Kahiya said the paper’s ombudsman, Retired Justice Mustapha Ibrahim called him that very morning to correct that oversight, which had been made by the editorial team.

“There’s no justification for it and an apology was made,” he said.

Some members of the public observed the question of cross ownership was not posed to Skies FM financed by Transport minister Obert Mpofu, alleged to own multi business enterprises.