Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
THE country’s broadcasting sector is set for transformation as the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) has invited applicants to take up six television and 29 radio station licences, a move that demonstrates Government’s commitment to effecting far-reaching reforms.
Analysts said the development would result in the creation of jobs, quality programming, plurality of media voices as Government walks the talk in opening up the air waves.
In a statement yesterday, BAZ chief executive officer Mr Obert Muganyura said the regulator will license six national commercial television stations, 10 community radio stations and 19 campus radio stations for a 10-year period.
Mr Muganyura said for television applications, the application fee is pegged at $42 500, public inquiries cost $127 500 while the annual licence fee is levied at $306 000.
He said applicants for community radio stations will pay a $8 500 application fee and if successful will be required to pay $17 000 per annum in licence fees.
Mr Muganyura said community radios would cover marginalised communities and Matabeleland region will get seven of the 10 community radio stations.
He said the closing date for both television and community radio stations is March 20 while campus radio stations will not be given any deadline for their submissions.
Community radio licences that are up for grabs are for the following places: Hwange and Victoria Falls; Beitbridge and Shashi; Mbembesi; Manama and Legion; Empandeni, Maphosa, Ndolwane and Plumtree; Binga, Kamativi, Kariba, Mapengolo and Siabuwa; Chikombedzi, Chiredzi, Rutenga, Mahenye and Malipati; Chipinge, Chimanimani, Gwendingwe, Rusitu, Chibuwe; Shamva and Alaska as well as Rukotso and Susamoyo.
Mr Muganyura said the campus radio stations are given to all state universities, polytechnics and private universities.
Players and observers in the media industry welcomed the latest development as a game changer on the country’s broadcasting media landscape.
Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ) secretary general Foster Dongozi said the call for applications is in line with the Second Republic’s mantra that “Zimbabwe is open for business”.
“We welcome this as a very positive development and a reflection of the ‘open for business’ mantra that the Government is always talking about. It’s a development that is going to result in the investment and growth of the media industry. It is also going to create job opportunities for journalism graduates who cannot be absorbed by the existing media institutions at the moment,” said Dongozi.
He said by licensing more television stations, there is going to be quality programming in the broadcasting sector.
“There is going to be competition, and naturally competition results in quality production as different stations will compete for audiences. Another exciting development around that is there are a lot of people who are into independent media production in television and have nowhere to send or sell their content. What this means is that the new players will absorb content from all those hard-working men and women who are into independent television content production,” he said.
Outgoing Fairtalk Communications chief executive officer Dr Qhubani Moyo whose organisation runs Skyz Metro FM in Bulawayo and Breeze FM in Victoria Falls said the development will enhance media pluralism.
“This is a positive development because it is opening up media space to a diversity of players which entails that there is going to be media pluralism in the country. It will accommodate different players including some that were left out in the main broadcasting sphere. I’m particularly impressed by the issuance of community radio licences because it means they will enhance local development especially in the traditionally marginalised language areas such as Manama and Binga,” said Dr Moyo.
“I’m also excited at the opening up of licences for the new television players because it means breaking the monopoly that has been enjoyed by ZBC.”
He said the creative sector will also benefit from the new development as it will get new avenues to sell content.
Journalism and Media Studies department chairperson at the National University of Science and Technology (Nust) Mr Thabani Mpofu said the campus radio stations will shift teaching of broadcasting courses from a theoretical perspective to a more practical one.
He said journalism students who were not getting opportunities due to a constrained media space will also get new opportunities.
“Universities and colleges and other training institutions will be able to set the trends in broadcasting. We have numerous radio stations that have mushroomed but us as trainers and people who do research, we would be able to set the trends and other broadcasters out there can then follow,” said Mr Mpofu.
He said the campus radio stations will also see voices of students and academics contributing to the national discourse as their views are hardly captured on the existing radio stations.
Gender activist Mrs Busi Bhebhe, who is also a director of Amakhosikazi Media, said although the call for applications was a positive step, she was concerned with licence fees for community radio stations.
“This is a welcome development in the sense that there has never been any call for any community radio licensing. The fact that they are now recognising the existence of such a media platform is a plus. But what I’m really worried about is the licensing fees they are charging considering that the laws in the country do not want any foreign-funded media. Where will communities get the funds?” Mrs [email protected]