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BAZ invitation for applications for local commercial broadcasting
The Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe
November 21, 2013
the invitation of applications by the Broadcasting Authority of
Zimbabwe (BAZ) for local commercial radio broadcasting services
in 25 areas of the country.
In a statement,
BAZ chief executive Obert Muganyura said the latest invitation would
cover 25 specific locations including all major cities and towns
such as Bindura, Chegutu, Chipinge, Chiredzi, Chirundu, Gwanda,
Hwange, Lupane, Marondera, Plumtree, Redcliff, Rusape and Zvishavane.
This follows its invitation of last year, which apparently had “few
takers”, according to Muganyura.
In a statement,
Muganyura said BAZ would issue guidelines on the qualification criteria
in order to assist applicants in meeting the qualification requirements
stipulated in the Broadcasting
Services Act (BSA) (The Herald, ZTV, 26/10, 8pm and Studio 7,
were published in the state-owned Sunday Mail and Sunday News, the
following day (27/10).
While MMPZ welcomes
this invitation, there are several reasons why we remain sceptical
of the sincerity of government’s intention to genuinely free
them is the fact that BAZ is inviting applications under the same
old discredited legal and institutional framework.
the BSA, under which the applications were invited, contains restrictive
provisions that appear to contravene the letter and spirit of the
This law, for instance, rules out applicants who are “wholly
or partly funded by foreign donations or contributions” and
compel applications to “provide proof and particulars of source
and organizations are also barred from applying for licences, among
other strict conditions.
Section 61 of
the Constitution declares that: “Every person has the right
to freedom of expression, which includes freedom to seek, receive
and communicate ideas and other information” and that the
broadcasting and other electronic media of communication “have
freedom of establishment, subject only to State licensing procedures
that are necessary to regulate the airwaves and other forms of signal
distribution”, and are “independent of control by government
or by political or commercial interests”.
of BAZ itself has been a subject of serious debate, as the Media
and Information Minister at the time, Webster Shamu, unilaterally
appointed it in September, 2009 during the existence of the coalition
BAZ board he constituted was packed with former military men and
ZANU PF allies, thus compromising its independence from political
concerned that despite common agreement during the period of the
coalition government soon after its formation that BAZ and other
media boards required reform and was a pre-requisite for the holding
of national elections, the new ZANU PF government no longer considers
this a priority before the issuing of new broadcasting licences.
derives especially from BAZ’s previous partisan handling of
applications for national broadcasting licences, which resulted
in the controversial licensing of Zimbabwe’s first two private
commercial radio stations in November 2011. These stations are Star
FM, which is owned by Zimpapers, a state-controlled private company,
and ZiFM Stereo, a private company that was run by businessman Supa
Mandiwanzira until his election as ZANU PF MP for Nyanga North and
his subsequent appointment as Deputy Minister of Information, Media
and Broadcasting Services.
At the time,
BAZ ruled that VOX Media, the proprietors of Radio
VOP, and other applicants, such as Oliver Mtukudzi’s Kiss
FM, had failed to impress them during public hearings held to consider
But MMPZ believes
the authority bent the regulations regarding the transparency and
accountability of this process by not disclosing the type of scoring
system and related criteria employed in evaluating prospective broadcasters.
We are of the
view that BAZ acted irrationally in awarding licences to Star FM,
in which the state has a controlling stake, and ZiFM, which was
run and owned by a prominent ZANU PF member, as this entrenches
ZANU PF’s monopoly of the broadcasting sector.
In addition, a day before BAZ’s invitation for the latest
radio applications, Deputy Minister of Information, Media and Broadcasting
Services, Supa Mandiwanzira was reported telling Senate that government
was in the process of licensing new radio stations “to get
rid of pirate radio stations that have been spawning anti-Zimbabwe
sentiments” (The Herald, 26/10), remarks that corroborate
doubts over government’s sincerity to open the airwaves to
In its news
report announcing BAZ’s latest invitation, The Herald (26/10)
echoed similar sentiments, referring to “pirate radio stations
that are driven by regime-change agents have been broadcasting into
Zimbabwe from the United States and other countries”.
daily added: “The radio stations air pro-MDC-T programmes
and denigrate ZANU-PF, but the ruling party is still going strong
despite the daily broadcasts against it.”
concern over the authorities’ contradictory action of claiming
to be interested in opening up the broadcasting sector, while the
covert motive appears to be the need “to get rid of”
the so-called pirate radio stations.
We wish to emphasize
that there is no government policy that defines what “a pirate
radio station” is and that the so-called pirate stations are
lawful broadcasters, run by Zimbabweans in the Diaspora.
that the major reason behind the establishment of the socalled pirate
stations was the state’s total monopoly of the broadcasting
industry through ZBC and undue interference with the national broadcaster’s
that the so-called pirate stations serve as alternative and useful
sources of information and are popular with some Zimbabweans, especially
those living in areas that do not receive ZBC signals.
Instead of focusing
on so-called pirate stations, the government should urgently repeal
restrictive registration provisions in the BSA; dissolve BAZ and
reconstitute it as an independent body with the participation of
all stakeholders; and then facilitate the non-partisan distribution
of affordable broadcasting licences on the basis that they are “subject
only to State licensing procedures that are necessary to regulate
the airwaves and other forms of signal distribution”.
Only with the
repeal of restrictive provisions in the BSA and the appointment
of an independent, credible, new BAZ board, which Zimbabweans can
trust, will there be any genuine reform of Zimbabwe’s broadcasting
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