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TWO Bulawayo commercial radio licence applicants were yesterday grilled on their prospects of sustaining a station in a city that is experiencing an economic free-fall after expressing confidence that their projects would be viable.

TWO Bulawayo commercial radio licence applicants were yesterday grilled on their prospects of sustaining a station in a city that is experiencing an economic free-fall after expressing confidence that their projects would be viable. NQOBILE BHEBHE CHIEF REPORTER

Officials from Fair Talk Communications (Pvt) Ltd, trading as SKYZ Metro FM, and Skies Radio (Pvt) Ltd, trading as Skies FM, made presentations during hearings that were oversubscribed saying the advertising industry was keen to support the stations.

SKYZ Metro FM is fronted by Qhubani Moyo and renowned playwright Cont Mhlanga while Skies Radio is owned by Transport minister Obert Mpofu.

Carryslot (Pvt) Ltd, trading as Skyz FM, which is linked to Alpha Media Holding, proprietors of Southern Eye, NewsDay, The Standard and Zimbabwe Independent, is expected to face public hearings today.

Fair Talk Communications’ Moyo said according to their research, 64% of people surveyed indicated that Bulawayo was ripe for a new station with 33% indicating that there was no need for a station while 3% were undecided.

“The establishment of a radio station in Bulawayo is tremendous and is in response to the research that acknowledged that while there are new stations that beam well into Bulawayo, they remain inadequate in telling the story of Bulawayo in the best of ways,” he said.

Moyo said if granted a licence, the station would adhere to the 75% local content Policy and acquire music from Bulawayo-based independent producers and artistes.

“A research was conducted by Bulawayo Billboard which indicated that in Bulawayo about 13 000 and 15 000 songs are currently getting virtually no airplay on radio stations, so we will provide a unique platform for local artistes,” he said.

On funding, Moyo said SKYZ Metro FM had secured commitment from CBZ Bank.

Presenting for Skies Radio (Pvt) Ltd, Netsai Gumede said the station would give war veterans “much air time” to educate Bulawayo about the liberation struggle.

She said government departments would get free air time to publicise key policies.

“From our research conducted in October last year, war veterans from Bulawayo said we must accord them air time to air out their role in the liberation struggle which is often overlooked,” she said.

“So we will have education programmes on the liberation struggle. We will also give the government free airtime to address major policies such as ZimAsset in laymen’s language. We will also market Bulawayo as a tourist attraction.”

She revealed that from 2 000 people surveyed on the use of programming languages, 100% said they wanted Ndebele, English (80%), Kalanga (20%), Venda (18%) and Shona 15%.

However, BAZ officials grilled Skies Radio (Pvt) Ltd on its shareholding structure after it noted “numerous inconsistences” focusing on prominent disc jockey Ezra “Tshisa” Sibanda.

According to BAZ, Sibanda was listed as a shareholder and chief executive officer (CEO) in the comprehensive report submitted by the firm, but it later emerged that he had since sold his shares, was no longer CEO and had left with his $30 000 investment.

Sibanda confirmed that he had disposed of his 30% shares.

“I sold my 30% shares for personal reasons and am no longer the CEO, but now the manager,” he said.

“I also withdrew my $30 000.”

On funding, Skies Radio (Pvt) Ltd indicated that it had mobilised $600 000 from two banks, but refused to disclose the institutions and pledged to provide proof of funds in two weeks.

However, BAZ said two weeks was too long and demanded proof in 24 hours. Zimbabwe currently has six radio stations; four owned by the State while the other two StarFM and ZiFM are owned by the State-owned Zimpapers and AB Communications, which is linked to Information, Media and Broadcasting Services deputy minister Supa Mandiwanzira.

A number of media lobby groups and associations have been calling for the liberalisation of broadcasting services for private players to operate as the government dithers on licensing them despite a Supreme Court ruling in 2000 which overturned the State’s monopoly on broadcasting.

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