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decries restrictive broadcasting law as impediment to licensing
September 18, 2007
In a revealing
and first time acknowledgment of the restrictive nature of the Broadcasting
Services Act (BSA), the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ),
says its hands are tied as no new broadcasting players can come
into the scene under the present regulatory environment.
Giving evidence before
the Portfolio Committee on Transport and Communications on Monday
17 August, BAZ Chief Executive Officer Obert Muganyura says the
authority, set under the BSA, has failed to license new players
as no potential private players can meet the "stringent criteria".
"We gave the projection
that we would by this time have licensed new players on the understanding
that the Broadcasting Services Act would have been amended but it
has not yet", said the Muganyura to the Parliamentarians.
The stringent requirements
in the BSA which Muganyura described as problematic include a ban
on foreign funding and ownership, restrictions on the number of
national free to air private broadcasters that can be licensed as
well as the restrictions placed on ownership of frequency transmitters.
The BSA provides that only the government owned company, Transmedia
can own frequency transmitters and all new players have to line
up to do business with Transmedia. As the situation stands in Zimbabwe,
Transmedia is failing to provide adequate services to one TV station,
the state owned Zimbabwe Television as well as to four FM radio
stations, all owned by the state through the Zimbabwe Broadcasting
MISA-Zimbabwe notes that
the revelations by BAZ on the democratic deficiencies in the BSA
as well as the political procrastination of the government in amending
the BSA further points to the fact that the ruling party and its
government are bent on maintaining their total grip on the broadcast
media. Missing in the statement from BAZ is its total lack of independence
to make decisions as its plays only a secretarial role to the Minister
of Information and Publicity. Without an independent regulatory
authority guaranteed by law, the job of the BAZ will remain at the
whims of politicians.
The prevailing situation
places Zimbabwe in a unique position in Southern Africa where it
is the only country with a virtual state monopoly in broadcasting.
It should be noted that the closure of broadcasting space to new
players is a political decision and act meant to safeguard the interest
of the ruling elite hence the defiance of expert advice and calls
by citizens and civic society for the industry to be opened to new
players. As Zimbabwe faces elections next year, it should become
clear to all that no democratic free and fair elections can be held
in an environment where only one political party has access to the
the MISA-Zimbabwe fact
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