Patrick Chitumba/Freedom Mupanedemo, Midlands Bureau
Government will have issued six television licences to independent players by August to improve diversity in information dissemination as the new administration liberalises the airwaves, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Permanent Secretary Mr Nick Mangwana said yesterday.
Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of the World Radio Day commemorations which were held in Gweru, Mr Mangwana said there were also 40 community radio frequencies that were up for grabs.
He said the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) will soon invite applicants for both television and community radio licences.
Mr Mangwana said Government has also availed 19 on-campus radio licences to institutions of higher and tertiary education. “By the end of the year, in fact by August this year our aim is to have at least six independent television channels. We are also availing six channels for the national broadcaster, ZBC so all in all we will be having 12 television channels,” he said.
“The call out for applications will be announced soon so it’s a challenge to ZBC. They have six channels so the onus is on them to produce enough content to feed into those channels,” he said.
On community radio stations, Mr Mangwana said Government was prioritising marginalised areas.
“We have about 40 frequencies for community radios meaning we will be calling for applications for 40 community radio stations. Of the 40 we have reserved 19 for institutions of higher learning so that they can have their on-campus radio stations. The priority is however, on marginalised areas and the frequencies are in these marginalised areas. For example, we have a frequency for Binga for the Tonga community, a frequency in Beitbridge. The idea is to promote community issues in those formerly marginalised areas,” he said.
Mr Mangwana said Government has also been putting in place a mechanism to support community radio stations in terms of funding.
He said Government will however, only fund those communities who would have successfully applied for a licence.
“It is Government’s duty to make sure we help those community radios in terms of viability. However, Government will only help those who would have successfully obtained licences,” he said.
Mr Mangwana said community radios will not be allowed to air issues to do with politics.
“BAZ has been instructed to be monitoring community radios which would have been licensed. They will not be allowed to air issues to do with politics, politics are divisive and Minister (Monica Mutsvangwa) when she gave her keynote address at the World Radio Day commemorations, she mentioned the role of radios in fanning genocide in Rwanda so we don’t want our community radios to venture into politics. They should focus on developmental issues,” he said.