Lawmakers from parliament’s Media and Information Portfolio Committee today rapped the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe or BAZ for failing to license community radio stations saying this was increasing the popularity of the Voice of America’s Studio 7 and others that broadcast from outside the country.
Members of the committee were disappointed by BAZ chief executive officer, Obert Muganyura’s presentation when he told them that BAZ had shelved the licensing of community radio stations to in order to first complete the local digitalization process.
Muganyura said BAZ has been tasked by government to co-ordinate the digital broadcasting migration and it was therefore unable to license community stations at least until March 2016.
This did not go down well with Makonde lawmaker, Kindness Paradza, who told him the absence of community radio stations was increasing Studio 7’s popularity throughout the country.
Uzumba lawmaker, Simbaneuta Mudarikwa, bemoaned the delay in the licensing of community radio stations.
He said in his constituency people relied on foreign radio stations as they cannot access local radio stations.
Muganyura admitted that lack of transmission in all parts of the country by the local broadcasters had created an enabling environment for foreign radio stations.
He said this would be addressed through digitalization, which would see the erection of 48 transmitters to cover the whole country.
Muganyura said BAZ has no capacity to block the foreign-based stations from broadcasting into Zimbabwe.
He expressed optimism that they would soon get equipment to monitor all broadcasts in the country.
He also pointed out the televisions stations such as Yadah run by Walter Magaya of Prophet Healing and Deliverance Ministries were illegal as they are not registered with BAZ.
But Gutu South lawmaker said it was no longer necessary for BAZ to seek to control broadcasting but should adjust to the advanced technology which now allow people to broadcast from everywhere
Muganyura described the 28 community radio initiatives in the country as groupings without any legal standing. But lawmakers objected saying these were genuine initiatives that were being frustrated by BAZ.
Chairman of the Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations, Gift Mambipiri, told Studio 7 that failure by BAZ to license a single community radio station since its inception in 2001 is a clear indication of lack of seriousness on its part.
Zimbabwe has a three-tier broadcasting system comprising national, local commercial and community broadcasting.
Currently the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporations, Zimbabwe Newspapers and ZiFM Stereo are licensed to broadcast nationally while eight players recently obtained local commercial broadcasting licences. No license has been issued for community broadcasting.