Nduduzo Tshuma Political Editor—
THE government will soon announce the nine applicants shortlisted to run metro radio stations around the country following the submission of names of successful bidders by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe, a cabinet minister said last night. Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo, addressing members of the Bulawayo Press Club at a local hotel said the names of the successful applicants would be released after presentation to relevant authorities.
“I think here in Bulawayo there were three applicants for one metro radio licence. I’m happy to say that BAZ has concluded that process and forwarded to us the result which we will at the next available opportunity soon, be taking or reporting to our principals before we make the outcome public,” he said.
“All things being equal the outcome of the process will be this month. That will be good because it means that we are likely to have an additional nine entrants to radio broadcasting. There will be nine metro localities that for the first time will have metro radio stations.
“It now remains to make the outcome of the process public after appropriate notification with the relevant authorities.”
Prof Moyo said the government had secured at least $140 million for the digitalisation programme of the infrastructure on the transmission network, studios, signal distribution, head end and regulatory monitoring.
“Radio in our country is going to benefit immensely from the digital migration programme which also is going to be a major feature of our broadcasting calendar this year. As you know the digital migration programme is primarily about television broadcasting. On the radio side, we are not going to have digital transmitters but we are going to have digital radio studios and digital devices,” said Prof Moyo.
“But in particular, because we will be working on the transmitter sites across the country for television which are the same location for radio transmitters, we are going to revamp the entire radio transmission network in our republic,” said Prof Moyo.
He said the development would ensure that the national radio broadcasters will have a national coverage which is not the case now.
Prof Moyo said the country has 24 transmission sites and not all radio stations have presence or transmitters in those sites.
He said Radio Zimbabwe and Power FM have better presence than Spot FM and National FM but the government wants all of them to have equal presence at every transmission site.
Prof Moyo said privately-owned radio stations Star FM and ZiFM were the worst in terms of presence and the government could be forced to act ruthlessly to force them to establish a national presence.
He said the government anticipated that it would not only revamp the 24 transmission sites to make sure that there is a transmitter for each of the national radio stations but also add more sites for television to ensure as close to universal coverage as possible.
“In terms of main ones we will move from 24 to at least 48 plus gap fillers to make the total 57,” he said.
Prof Moyo said they were expecting in the next week, findings of the Information and Media Panel of inquiry that would influence changes in policy and legislation in the industry.
Prof Moyo said while the constitution was clear that Zimbabweans were entitled to establish broadcasting media, it also says that is subject to licensing regulations or requirements.
He said the licensing process took into account a number of factors firstly that the frequency for broadcasting was a finite resource that not everyone can have access to. He said the country was presently restricted to six national broadcasting frequencies in accordance with international treaties under the International Telecommunication Union.
Prof Moyo said the country would have up to 84 television stations because of digital migration.
He said calls in the last ten years for the establishment of radio stations were often-times made without considering that radio is a business.
“It (radio) must be established taking into account what the economy can afford. One of the rude, sobering lessons we have taken from the print media is that many who would like to run newspapers have discovered that it is not easy to do so.
“You can only do it if you have a mischievous donor with an agenda and is pouring money and you don’t worry about the cost of newsprint, adverts, you just worry about churning propaganda and you just sit there and ask yourselves when you meet in the diary room, whom should we make dirty today,” said Prof Moyo.
“That’s a very easy editorial question to answer because you are not worrying about a business model or you have a rich person who also has a political agenda.”
Prof Moyo said there was lot of work to do in a professional media with a business model thriving on providing credible and balanced content.
Prof Moyo continued, “And we have learnt something also that we don’t have to say no we don’t want you to publish. Just let them publish and you will see what the market will do to them. It will teach them and they will close down or they say we are not interested.”
Meanwhile, Prof Moyo said the government was working on ways of revamping the present television licensing system so that no one would watch television for free.