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Statement following the submission of broadcasting licence applications
August 12, 2011
is concerned by the deafening silence surrounding the processing
of applications for the two commercial radio broadcasters by the
Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) advertised on 26 May 2011.
Since the submission
of applications by 14 aspiring broadcasters and the subsequent publication
of the applicants' names in the media, there has been no update
on the progress of the adjudication process. To date, BAZ has not
published a comprehensive list of the applicants. Neither has it
furnished the public with useful details of directorship and ownership
of respective companies that applied, which would have assisted
the public in making objections as required under the broadcasting
law. Although BAZ has no legal obligation to do this, the issue
is of public interest of which it should apprise the nation to ensure
transparency and build public confidence in the whole licensing
What makes it
more imperative for BAZ to keep the nation updated on this matter,
is the fact that there are no clear timelines stipulated in the
Act (BSA) under which the regulatory board should shortlist
successful applicants; conduct public hearings on their applications
and finally license them. It is entirely up to BAZ to determine
the time within which these processes have to be completed. In the
absence of legal timeframes within which BAZ must conclude the licensing
process, there is no enforcement mechanism to ensure the regulatory
board speedily issues licenses.
also notes that even if the new broadcasters were to be eventually
licensed, this may not necessarily translate to the provision of
alternative information to the citizenry due to the stipulated content
restrictions in BSA. By their very nature private broadcasters are
profit oriented and therefore need to structure their programming
in a manner that attracts listenership, thereby drawing advertising
revenue. Therefore, they need to operate within a framework that
accords them considerable editorial autonomy for their sustainability.
current operating framework as stipulated under the repressive the
BSA imposes content requirements that interfere with their independence.
Among these are the compulsory 75% quota for local content; the
allocation of an hour of broadcasting space per week to government
and the stipulations on airing of political and electoral matters.
in terms of Part II of the Fifth schedule of the BSA a broadcaster
is required to report to BAZ and keep records of any broadcast of
a political matter. According to the interpretation clause, a political
matter is "any political matter, including the policy lunch
of a political party". This definition is so vague to the
extent that it can cover a broad spectrum of the broadcasters'
content. Restrictions such as these are bound to compromise private
broadcasters' role as independent sources of alternative information.
It is for this
reason that MISA-Zimbabwe reiterates its calls for the repeal of
the BSA and its replacement with a democratic law that will ensure
transparency in the licensing process as well as promote the establishment
of a three-tier broadcasting system, which will allow Zimbabweans
to freely express themselves and access information of their choice.
the MISA-Zimbabwe fact
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