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BAZ call for webcasting and diffusion service applicants mired in confusion
MISA-Zimbabwe
January 27, 2011

MISA-Zimbabwe is concerned about the reports that do not only continue to add confusion on the country's broadcasting regulatory body but also appear to be aimed at legitimising the body which has been deemed to have been illegally constituted by the information ministry in 2009.

This follows the publication of a notice published in The Sunday Mail of 19-25 December, 2010 in which the Broadcasting and Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) called for diffusion and webcasting service providers to register their operations with it this year saying it has the legality to demand fees and license of their operations.

The announcement by the BAZ implies that banks, hotels, hospitals, nursing homes and other business operators with diffusion services are required to register. The call also extends to broadcasting of pre-recorded programmes for reception by passengers of railway service, transport operators, i.e. railcasting and roadcasting.

Diffusion service is defined under the BSA as including the dissemination -

  • by means of any conducting medium of the whole or any part of writing, signs, signals, pictures, impulses or sounds broadcast by a broadcasting service; or
  • of music, speech, pictures or other data for information, education or entertainment purposes by means of any conducting medium connected to two or more items of apparatus specifically designed for the reproduction of sound, pictures or data; or
  • of teletext and vertical blanking intervals

Roadcasting as defined under the BSA refers to the broadcasting of pre-recorded programmes for reception by passengers of any public service vehicle as defined in the Road Traffic Act [Chapter 13:11], while railcasting means the broadcasting of pre-recorded programmes for reception by passengers of any railway service.

The Act also defines webcasting as a computer-mediated broadcasting service.

In the notice, BAZ emphasized the definition of a broadcasting service under the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA) as meaning "any service which delivers television or radio programmes to persons having equipment appropriate for receiving that service."

The registration fees vary from $3000.00 for transport operators to $9000.00 for programme providers annually. Webcasters will be required to fork out $1000.00 non-refundable application fee and $18000.00 in license fees for the webcasting service.

BAZ also advised that it will be receiving the applications throughout the year and warned that it was illegal for any person to provide any service that falls within the broadcasting definition without a permission granted by it.

Background

BAZ is a board established under the Broadcasting service Act (BSA) of Zimbabwe to regulate all broadcasting services in Zimbabwe.

Since the enactment of the BSA in 2001, the BAZ only called for applications once in 2005, but failed to issue a single license to prospective private broadcasters who had submitted applications, leaving the state's broadcasting monopoly over Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation to continue.

The legal status of the current BAZ is mired in confusion. In terms of the law the president has the discretion to appoint nine nominees submitted by representative groups such as churches, legal practitioners and accountants following a call for nominations by the Minister. The president makes the other three appointments from a list of six nominees submitted by SROC.

In September 2009, the ministry of information unprocedurally appointed the BAZ as noted by even the principals to the Unity government at the SADC summit held in Windoek, Namibia 2010. In fact, the coalition government agreed to reconstitute the board within 30 days. It was agreed that the Information Ministry, the Parliamentary Standing Rules and Orders Committee (SROC) and the principals would be responsible for that reconstitution.

MISA-Zimbabwe position

MISA-Zimbabwe is guided by the African Charter on Broadcasting in its emphasis on the need for transparency in the appointment and composition of BAZ. This makes inevitable, the need for the repeal of the existing repressive Broadcasting Services Act and its replacement with a democratic law in line with regional and international instruments on broadcasting.

It is against this background that MISA-Zimbabwe seeks clarity and transparency in the regulation of the broadcasting sector to allow for the proliferation of private broadcasters to enhance access to information for the generality of the Zimbabwean population.

MISA - Zimbabwe calls for the clarity on the legal status of BAZ so that aspiring broadcasters are clear on which board to approach for broadcasting licenses

Visit the MISA-Zimbabwe fact sheet

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