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Weekly Media Review 2011- 47
The Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe
Monday November 21st - Sunday November 27th 2011
December 02, 2011

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Ministry subverting broadcasting reforms

Barely a week after the disputed Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) courted controversy by awarding the country's first ever free-to-air independent national commercial radio station licences to two companies linked to ZANU PF, the authority was making headlines again with advertisements seeking applications for more, free-to-air local commercial radio broadcasters.

BAZ, whose members were unilaterally appointed by the ZANU PF-controlled Ministry of Information in 2009, flighted adverts in The Sunday Mail (27/11) inviting applications from potential broadcasters to establish private local radio stations, one in each of 14 towns and cities around the country.

Given BAZ's irregular appointment and clearly partisan allocation of national broadcasting space, this latest effort by the authority to appear to be reforming Zimbabwe's restricted broadcasting environment is sure to re-ignite fierce debate over the unity government's desire to implement genuine media reform as envisaged under the Global Political Agreement.

It is on record that, as a result of its irregular appointment, the Principals in the Government of National Unity have agreed to reconstitute the BAZ governing board in terms of the Broadcasting Services Act as amended in

Until this is achieved, the activities of the group of individuals claiming to be representing BAZ should be considered to be of no legal force or effect and should be dismissed as the actions of an illegitimately appointed body.

Indeed, civil society, media watchdogs and two of the three parties in the unity government have all dismissed BAZ's allocation of national broadcasting licences to Zimpapers' Talk Radio and AB Communications' Zi fm stereo, owned by former ZBC newscaster Supa Mandiwanzira, as exactly that.

But instead of paying attention to the self-evidently necessary legal requirement for it to be reconstituted, BAZ is pressing ahead with its media reform window-dressing by seeking applications for local private broadcasters.

It is equally self-evident that for BAZ to do so it must have the support of the Ministry of Information and Publicity that supervises its activities.

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