Broadcast authority urged to implement “real” media reforms

via Broadcast authority urged to implement “real” media reforms | SW Radio Africa  by Tererai Karimakwenda   October 29, 2013

The Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) is being urged to implement “real” media reforms that will open up the broadcast industry to include independent players, instead of campaigning to shut down so-called “pirate radio stations” broadcasting from outside Zimbabwe.

The call came from media practitioners in the country, after the state-run Herald announced that BAZ is “re-inviting” applications for commercial radio licenses in 25 areas, having failed to attract much interest with the original offer last year.

According to The Herald newspaper the invitation is “consistent with Government’s recently pronounced policy to open airwaves to get rid of pirate radio stations that have been spawning anti-Zimbabwe sentiments.”

Giving no further details about the application process itself, the Herald said: “Pirate radio stations that are driven by regime change agents have been broadcasting into Zimbabwe from the United States and other countries. The radio stations air pro-MDC-T programmes and denigrate ZANU PF, but the ruling party is still going strong despite the daily broadcasts against it.”

SW Radio Africa correspondent Lionel Saungweme and Tabani Moyo from the media watchdog MISA-Zimbabwe, both blasted BAZ as being hypocrites, for claiming to want a more open media environment, but only so they can “get rid of” dissenting voices.

Moyo said: “The people of Zimbabwe are tired of the politicization of the process of radio licensing. We need to firstly amend or to do away with the restrictive legislation that is the Broadcast Services Act, and then also reconstitute the BAZ itself so that it becomes an independent authority that does not put on political party hats or regalia.”

Moyo went further to explain that there is no government policy that defines what a pirate radio station is, and that BAZ was making statements that have no legal basis and contradict their actual mission, to open up the airwaves.

Saungweme focused more on the application process, saying: “Talk is cheap. What would have been more logical would have been the scrapping of those prohibitive entry requirements for radio applicants to make it really possible”.

He said the poor response when the radio applications were offered last year, was because government made it impossible for local media organisations to qualify, and the application fees were also not affordable for most.

“It won’t matter whether you get 310,000 applications. All the so-called good pronouncements by the ministers will mean nothing if you do not remove these prohibitive entry requirements,” Saungweme said.

“As far as history tells us the license will go to someone with links to ZANU PF. Last time it went to the deputy minister himself as AB Communications and now he is helping to shape media laws in the country, but in whose favour,” Saungweme asked, referring to the freshly appointed deputy minister Supa Mandiwanzira, who heads ZiFM.

The Herald quoted a statement by BAZ chief executive officer Obert Muganyura, who said that a guideline on the qualification criteria would be issued in this week’s Sunday Mail and Sunday News, together with the official call for license applications.

But Saungweme said Zimbabweans will show no interest for a second time, if the entry requirements are not changed.