The Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) this week announced five companies that it awarded commercial radio licences to broadcast in eight selected urban centres following interviews the authority conducted last year involving 12 applicants.
It was not by accident or coincidence that Zimpapers and ABC Communications were the biggest “winners” again.The usual suspects “won” the licences.
The BAZ mission statement lists one of their aims as follows: “To create an environment that promotes the development of a local dynamic broadcasting industry, which provides quality services, that are universally available and affordable.”
We can boldly say that was the least of their considerations when they awarded the licences. There cannot be dynamism when the same players are awarded licences.
But then the Zimbabwean government is not in a hurry to reform BAZ because it is serving their exact purpose.
All the five firms granted licences are connected to the political establishment. ABC Communications, which got two licences in addition to the already operative one at ZiFM, has Information Communication Technology minister Supa Mandiwanzira as its major shareholder.
Zanu PF-controlled Zimpapers, which already runs Star FM, got a second licence, making it a virtual oligopoly in the media industry. The significance of this is not lost. The ruling class is tightening its grip on the media despite going through the motions of inviting any and all applications.
Nobody is fooled by the statement from BAZ accompanying the award: “The determination by the authority was guided by the proposal submitted by each applicant for a particular licence area, the outcome of the public inquiries and the guidance provided in terms of the Broadcasting Services Act.”
The intention and purpose is to have total control. The BAZ board is there to ensure that.
The composition of the board itself militates against fairness and competence. BAZ board chairperson Tafataona Mahoso happens to be the chief executive officer of the Zimbabwe Media Commission, where he previously operated as chairperson.
It amounts to more of the same with the ubiquitous Mahoso. This has given Mahoso the carte blanche to totally exclude applicants from outside the political establishment. His anti-private media stance is a public secret.
It’s not that Mahoso is uniquely able. His short reign as State broadcaster ZBC chairman proved that he is not one for the corporate world. He is not business-minded.
He is not for employment creation. But that he is the point man of the system is in no doubt. Mahoso is there to ensure that their narrow, partisan political interests are fulfilled, protected and maintained in the same way they have subverted ZBC, a public broadcaster, into a Zanu PF outlet, in the process running it down by making political appointments with no clue in commercial business, which the said granted radio licences are ostensibly for.
BAZ and its political masters should hang their heads in shame if they have any sense of disrepute at all. They have totally and utterly disgraced themselves.