via Switch off errant broadcasters, Prof Moyo orders BAZ | The Herald November 20, 2013
The Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe should switch-off broadcasters that fail to comply with licence conditions, including failure to adhere to the 75 percent local content threshold in their programming, Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo has said.
Speaking during a tour of BAZ offices in Harare yesterday, Prof Moyo said stiffer penalties should be imposed on broadcasters who fail to comply with the licensing requirements.
He said there was no reason for having the regulations if they were disregarded ‘willy-nilly’ and that BAZ should switch off air errant broadcasters.
“In the past it (BAZ) had done nothing or had levied paltry penalties,” Prof Moyo said. “They should be able to put a station off air. These errant broadcasters are making regulations a laughing stock. Why do we have BAZ if it gazettes regulations that it is not able to enforce or is afraid of enforcing?
“We certainly want to see a vigorous enforcement not just of monetary penalties which the broadcasters can afford not to pay and have nothing done.”
Prof Moyo, who was accompanied by his deputy Cde Supa Mandiwanzira, said switching the stations off air would result in them clashing with their advertisers.
“We should have a position that is serious, including getting them off air for a day and if they persist, a week, that will destabilise their relationship with their advertisers and therefore affect their revenue,” he said.
“The withdrawal of a licence ought to be the last resort, but clearly we must be able to get them off air for a designated period that fits the crime. That will cost you nothing and this is a civilised world dealing with errant broadcasters.”
Prof Moyo said players in the broadcasting industry should participate in the formulation of the standards and regulations.
He said BAZ should tighten its regulations on content broadcasting.
“As far as content broadcasting is concerned, we have to be serious to enforce, including where they are not paying royalties,” said Prof Moyo. “We should not leave artistes and their collection agents with a burden. There is no point in coming up with a 75 percent content requirement that is not linked to the benefits that follow.
“It is not that we just want to hear useless stuff being played and 75 percent of it. We want to hear the best stuff produced by people who are professional, who earn a living from that production and broadcasters must pay.”
Prof Moyo called on BAZ to set minimum standards on transmitters that were being brought in the country by broadcasters.
“Anyone, not just Transmedia is allowed to bring transmitters and we have to be clear about the standards because a lot of new staff brought in by ZiFM and StarFM have developed faults,” he said.
“This is largely because the equipment is not designed to take the fluctuations in electricity we have as a result of the electricity cuts. As a result, those problems affect the way the equipment works. It is not a question of brands, but a question of minimum technical standards.”
Prof Moyo said BAZ should approve all the partnerships and joint ventures local players may enter into with foreign broadcasters.
“We are now seeing people, including Transmedia, entering into all sorts of arrangements with people some which may not be in the interest of the sector, national interest or legal,” he said.
“They might be violating another law which is not the Broadcasting Services Act. There has to be a regulation that if anything changes, not just ownership structure, and if you go into a venture you must bring that agreement to BAZ to see that it does not violate any law.”
Prof Moyo said the Broadcasting Services Act was being reviewed to streamline it and make it ready for digital migration.
He said the setting up of community radio stations was a Government priority.
“There is an expectation that BAZ will soon advise the country on the way forward,” he said. “I hope that work in this area is at an advanced stage and that you will either be ready to extend the appropriate invitation or where there is no invitation, do the necessary action either before the end of the year, which is preferred or as a New Year gift. I think every community will have a good Christmas if they get there knowing the direction.”
Prof Moyo added: “We have an opportunity to deal with these issues in a non-political way. If you delay and do it in 2018 they will say you are doing it for elections. These good things should be done immediately after the elections.”
BAZ chairperson Dr Tafataona Mahoso said the new political dispensation brought about by the July 31 harmonised elections, that saw President Mugabe and Zanu-PF romping to victory, would result in air waves being opened up.
“We used to think that the language of opening up was an opposition language and this led to the notion that elections cannot be free and fair unless you open airwaves,” he said.
“It is a new dispensation and we are for the opening of air waves, the democratisation of the media and this is the democracy people voted for.
“People will now be looking at us saying the rules that apply to ZiFM and StarFM must apply to ZBC and that is the new challenge we must deal with to ensure the State must not seem to be practising double standards.”