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Parly media committee grills BAZ over broadcasting licenses
July 07, 2011

The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Media, Information and Communication Technology (PPC) on 7 July 2011 appealed to the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) for 'real movement' towards freeing the broadcasting space in Zimbabwe.

Speaking during a parliamentary hearing held at Parliament Building in Harare, Chairperson of the PPC, Honorable Seiso Moyo, said after the licensing of more newspapers by the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC), the PPC had 'major concerns' with BAZ, particularly regarding its unclear frequency in calling for license applications, the prohibitive application fees and the status of the Broadcasting Services Fund.

In submissions made before the PPC, BAZ which was represented by the Chairperson, Dr Tafataona Mahoso and Chief Executive Officer, Engineer Obert Muganyura, said calls for applications for more players in the industry is being hampered by lack of infrastructure and equipment to regulate the industry's technical and content issues.

Muganyura said BAZ was currently monitoring broadcasting in the industry with rudimentary receivers loaned from Posts and Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) adding that increasing the number of players would thus be difficult.

BAZ also submitted that the call for free-to-air commercial radio licenses was informed by a survey carried out at 38 centres throughout the country which prioritised commercial radios over the other classes of broadcasting licenses. Muganyura said because government had failed to avail resources to the authority to assist in the processing of applications, the current exorbitant application fees were the result of the transfer of costs to the applicants. The authority said that the next class for licensing would be that for community radio stations.

Currently the Broadcasting Services Fund, BAZ submitted, is unable to fund any activities in the industry as the only licensed broadcaster in the country, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings (ZBH), contributions are in arrears. Muganyura said ZBH had over the years only made payments for frequency fees.

On progress concerning issuance of licenses for television stations, BAZ said most of it activities are currently focusing on the digital migration of Zimbabwe from analogue for which the International Telecommunication Union has set 2015 as the compliance deadline. He said they were working on the regulatory framework to cater for the migration and that some training is currently taking place to ensure that there is some progress.

The Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe also made its first appearance before the PPC since its inception in 2007.The VMCZ was represented by its newly elected Chairperson, Alec Muchadehama, Vice Chairperson, Bornwell Chakaodza and board members Retired Justice George Smith, Choice Damiso and members of its secretariat Takura Zhangazha and Loughty Dube.

The VMCZ briefed the Committee on the principles of media self-regulation.

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