MEDIA organisations yesterday said there was no transparency in the manner in which radio licences were issued by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ), with many saying the issuance was made along partisan lines.
BY MOSES MATENGA
The Tafataona Mahoso-chaired BAZ on Tuesday awarded licences to eight new players out of 21 applicants.
State-owned Kingstons won two licences for Kariba and Harare, while former ZBC chief executive Munyaradzi Hwengwere was given a licence to operate in Zvishavane.
AB Communications, which also runs ZiFM Stereo, was given two licences for Masvingo and Gweru. AB Communications is majority-owned by Information Communication Technology minister Supa Mandiwanzira. Government controlled Zimpapers which already operates StarFM got the Mutare licence.
Media organisations said the development was an affront to media diversity since all companies that benefited were either State-run or with individuals closely linked to the system.
Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Zimbabwe chapter director Nhlanhla Ngwenya said the State had tightened its grip on the broadcasting sector.
“This was to be expected given the flawed regulatory framework which is susceptible to political manipulation. Our reservations with the current regulatory framework have been vindicated by the licensing of entities under State control and those associated with the ruling elite,” Ngwenya said.
“With this outcome, we are seeing the State’s relentless drive to dominate the space and expand its tentacles in the media under the guise of private ownership. It’s liberalisation that is founded on deceit as it makes a mockery of claims that we have a diversified broadcasting sector.”
Zimbabwe Association for Community Radio Stations chairperson Gift Mambipiri said that although they appreciated the licencing of new radio stations, there was no diversity.
“The march towards (that) diversity appears compromised when the same players, linked to, or with a close relationship with the State, are licenced, as is the case now. The government has always dominated the airwaves via ZBC. Their further licencing of Zimpapers and Kingstons is a sure sign that they plan to sell the nation a dummy,” Mambipiri said.
“Allowing a few individuals or entities to appropriate and take everything on offer, when others are crying for the same, breeds discontent in the land. Our unity as a people may be compromised by such selfish acts perpetrated by BAZ.”
Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe executive director Loughty Dube said BAZ should tell the nation the criteria they used to give out the licences.
“While it’s good that BAZ is opening up airwaves, it’s good they conducted public hearings which we feel is due process, but what is missing is for them to publicise how they awarded licences and others lost.”
Mahoso could not be reached for comment yesterday.