People want genuine community radio

via People want genuine community radio | The Zimbabwean by Nelson Sibanda 03.06.14

People are suspicious of the selection criteria to be used by government to licence commercial community radio stations.

Recently the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe announced that it had shortlisted some 18 commercial radio broadcasting licences.

Interviews carried out by The Zimbabwean in Harare and Marondera recently revealed that people had no faith in the selection process.

Generally people were of the opinion that the licences would be issued on partisan grounds, given previous experiences.

Two ‘private’ radio operating licences were given to ZiFM owned by Zanu (PF) Member of Parliament, Supa Mandiwanzira and StarFM of the Zimpapers.

“People would have loved truly private radio stations covering events objectively and having the autonomy to flight adverts from across the political divide without outside interference. Divergence of views is key to national development. Given Zimbabwe’s politics there are no chances that suspected or known Zanu (PF) rivals would be granted the licence as they would be regarded unsuitable,” said Nzou Samaita of Marondera.

Another Marondera resident, Alfred Senzere, welcomed the pending licensing of the radio stations. He said it was long overdue but should meet expectations of the listenership.

“Zimbabweans are a politically mature society and would expect nothing short of genuinely independent radio stations. Regarding the news content, we expect nothing short of the truth about events happening around the country and the globe, for the nation to appreciate its real situation,” said Senzere.

Senzere doubted the sustainability of the project given the shrinking advertisement base as a result of dwindling companies.

James Mashanga of Harare said there was need for clarity regarding the definition of community in the eyes of BAZ.

Mashanga noted that a community should not only be confined to geographical features since a church or any organisation is a community.

“Churches and other organisations should qualify for the licences and be allowed to broadcast from any convenient location.

“We hope the radio stations would reflect aspirations, activities, challenges and other issues to do with specific communities. “This is an opportune time to give divergence of views a chance,” Mashanga said.

Mashanga said the stations would fulfil their obligations if they cover people’s views including those of the minority without political interferences.

Robson Mazuru of Murewa said members of parliament, other elected public office bearers and government officials should not be considered for the licences.

Mazuru noted that issuing licences to the officials would influence and impact negatively on the intended purposes of the radios.

“The communities in this respect should not have boundaries since some of the radios should for example, specifically cater for interests of children, women, farmers, community development the church among others,” Mazuru said.

Mazuru feared that “the licences would not be issued fairly given the politicised Zimbabwe landscape.”

Following the short listing of the 18 applicants, BAZ would take the applications for public hearings to determine their suitability.

“Out of the 21 applications received, BAZ shortlisted 18 which would be taken to the public as required in terms of the Broadcasting Services Act (Chapter 12: 6),” said BAZ chief executive officer, Obert Muganyura in a statement.

Muganyura said the 21 applicants came from nine of the 25 areas invited and the process would be completed by end of next month.

Harare has its community radio station, Community Radio Harare, whose objectives include provision of a channel of communication to citizens and promotion of development, democracy and good governance.

It would also promote social development issues through airing participatory programs aimed at improving the quality of life in the country.

A free market for ideas in society would be provided where all voices are equally heard. According to the Oxford dictionary, a community is a social unit of any size that shares common values.

This could be a group or network of persons connected to each other by relatively durable social relations that extend beyond immediate geographical borders.