Patrick Chitumba/Freedom Mupanedemo, Midlands Bureau
Government has gazetted a Frequency Allotment Plan and Regulations that enable the establishment of 19 on-campus radio stations to be operated by institutions of higher learning, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa has said.
She said the Second Republic is committed to opening up the airwaves, promoting freedom of expression and dissemination of diverse views.
Addressing journalists and residents gathered to commemorate the World Radio Day at the Gweru Civic Centre yesterday, Minister Mutsvangwa said institutions of higher learning should embrace Government’s commitment to opening up the airwaves by applying for the radio licences. The commemorations were hosted by the Midlands State University (MSU).
“We believe in the power of radio. It is a policy objective of my Ministry to have campus radio stations in Zimbabwe. To this end we have gazetted a Frequency Allotment Plan and Regulations that enable the establishment of about 19 campus stations in this country. Our institutions of higher learning are advised to make use of what we have made available for them. We are a Government that walks the talk,” she said.
Minister Mutsvangwa said her Ministry has grasped and embraced the importance of radio as it is a right for the people of Zimbabwe.
“Those who follow what we are doing can testify that we have made commitments to bring more broadcasters and a diversity of players to this landscape. It is a commitment we ask you to judge us by when we meet again on this day next year. Our law envisages a three-tier broadcasting system. This incorporates Public Broadcasting, Commercial Broadcasting and Community Broadcasting. Currently we have both public and commercial but we are yet to license community broadcasters. Let me make this point clear, we are going to license community stations, we are about to license community radio stations,” she said.
Minister Mutsvangwa said licensing of community radio stations was a priority agenda for her Ministry in line with the devolution agenda pushed by the Second Republic. “His Excellency President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Government adopted devolution as one of its flagship policies in the Second Republic. This is why you noted Cde Larry Mavima here who is the Minister for Provincial Affairs and Devolution. We believe that everyone should have access to information. We realised that for everyone to participate in development more so, at a devolved level, their voices should be heard,” she said.
Evidence gathered by the Information and Media Panel of Inquiry (IMPI), Minister Mutsvangwa said, indicated that radio is the most popular platform of information in Zimbabwe, particularly in rural communities.
“To develop at grassroots level, people should take pride in their communities and inculcate a sense of community that propels them to take ownership of their own development. It is here that community radio will play a critical role. For this reason, there is no turning back on rolling out community stations,” she said.
Minister Mutsvangwa said Government has closed the gap that existed in law which hindered the establishment of community radio stations.
“Last week we closed the legal gap that existed in law which hindered the establishment of the community radio stations. We gazetted regulations which set the framework for the licensing authority to call out for applications and I am advised they are preparing their callout right now. Broadcasting in Zimbabwe is founded on the Broadcasting Services Act. We are in the process of amending this law. This will align this primary legislation to the Constitution as well as modernize it to embrace new technology,” she said.
Minister Mutsvangwa said as newspapers become more expensive, radio continues to dominate as the main source of information for the people.
“This is why, today as the day set aside to celebrate and raise awareness on what radio has done, what it is doing and what it will do to our communities, we say let’s all come together in one accord and commemorate this great platform,” she said.
Touching on the theme of the commemorations, “Radio, Diversity and Development”, Minister Mutsvangwa said there is need for radio stations to uphold diversity.
She said radio stations should have diversity of communities they serve especially at national level.
In our diversity, Minister Mutsvangwa said, the spirit of Ubuntu/ Hunhu must be the core.
“This should range from gender, to race, culture and language. Let our studios be friendly to those with disabilities. Let them have easy access and let their voice be also heard on our radios. Let vulnerable groups find their voice and expression on our stations,” she said.
To date the country has six national and 10 regional commercial radio stations.