Media, Information and Publicity minister Webster Shamu yesterday said he would not reconstitute the broadcasting services sector boards because of a directive by the three principals as he was simply following the law.
This was in direct defiance of calls by President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara to reform the broadcasting sector.
Shamu told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Media, Information and Communication Technology chaired by Mbizo MP Settlement Chikwinya that he could not reconstitute the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings (ZBH) and the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) boards along political lines because of the principals’ directive, but would follow what was stipulated in the Broadcasting Services Act.
In February, Mutambara said Shamu had been ordered to regularise the composition of the BAZ board and on May 4, Tsvangirai threatened to fire Shamu for ignoring a government directive to reconstitute the BAZ and ZBC boards.
But Shamu yesterday said: “The board of ZBH and BAZ are properly constituted according to the law. According to the Broadcasting Services Act, the issue of political interests does not come into play.
“The so-called agreement on reconstituting the ZBC and BAZ boards along political lines is unlawful and if the principals wished to do this, the political parties could have sponsored an amendment to the Act in Parliament because I cannot be expected to act outside the Broadcasting Services Act as it stands today and there is nowhere it states I should appoint boards along political lines.”
Shamu defended the manner BAZ issued out broadcasting licences to Zimpapers’ Talk Radio and AB Communications, saying the allegations of unilateralism and arbitrariness were unfounded.
“We only started hearing these reservations well after these public hearings, and even then from organised interest groups who in fact had been afforded an opportunity to voice concerns during public hearings and such criticism is not honest as it stems from a desire to see pre-determined outcomes,” he said.
On the composition of BAZ, he said the confusion was cleared in at a meeting with Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara and the Parliament Standing Rules and Orders Committee chaired by the Speaker Lovemore Moyo had also signed to approve the board’s composition.
Shamu said without restrictions, the media industry was susceptible to monopolies, oligopolies and other combinations that hurt media diversity, adding all print publishers were at liberty to apply for broadcasting licences.
He also said Zimbabwe would not simply licence what he called “false” broadcast stations which in reality were merely relay stations for foreign broadcasters and programmes.