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Zimbabwe Private Radio Takes Broadcasting Authority to Court Over Licensing

  • Thomas Chiripasi
  • Tatenda Gumbo

A Zimbabwean private radio station, denied a license to go on air, has taken the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe to the Supreme Court over it's failure to furnish a lower court with papers detailing how it last year chose two winners with links to President Robert Mugabe's Zanu PF party.

VOX Media revealed the court process seeks to force the BAZ to release documents required in the company’s application challenging the authority's decision giving licenses to former ZBC journalist Supa Mandiwanzira’s AB Communications, which owns ZI FM, and Zimbabwe Newspapers, which is planning to operate Zimpapers Talk Radio.

Addressing journalists in Harare Friday, VOX Media productions board member Tafadzwa Mugabe said his company had snubbed a meeting called by a parliamentary portfolio committee on media and information Thursday. He said going before the committee would have jeopardized the company’s court case.

Vox media productions private limited is the parent company of Radio Voice of the People, which broadcasts into Zimbabwe daily from the Netherlands.

Vox media challenged the awarding of the licenses in the administrative court. Although the case was not treated as urgent by the court, the same court is still seized with the matter.

However, Mugabe accused the Tafataona Mahoso-led BAZ of refusing to furnish the court with a record of proceedings during public inquiries held by the board which it used to determine which companies should get the licenses.

"Most people who have been involved in disciplinary proceedings or court proceedings know that when a matter goes on appeal, the appeal court needs to be seized with the complete proceedings from the inferior court," said Mugabe.

Mugabe said judging from presentations made by Vox media during the public inquiries, it was clear that the awarding of licenses to AB communications and Zimpapers was unjustified.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe has expanded its digital satellite services with the launch of a new satellite provider, My TV Zimbabwe. The satellite provider, housed under My TV Africa which is based in Lebanon, is set challenge other market competitors including satellite provider ‘DStv.’

My TV Zimbabwe was licensed by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe early April, launched to Harare subscribers and is moving to expand to Bulawayo in the coming months.

The new player boasts to have cheaper market prices, going at $22 a month for 18 channels, including Al Jazeera, BBC World News, Sentanta sports, Movie Africa, FX Movie Network and Fox Entertainment.

Many Zimbabweans have in the past largely relied on free-to-air satellite channels. But earlier this year a ruling by a South African High Court ordering the stronger encryption of free-to-air satellite channels left many Zimbabweans in the dark as they lost access to outside channels.

Chief executive Rodgers Chidamwoyo of My TV Zimababwe says their services will provide competition to rivals and appeal to ordinary Zimbabweans, mainly due to affordability, as the existing services are way too expensive.

"The content that we have is really worth more than the $22 that we are charging," said Chidamwoyo. "We are actually riding on two A's which is accessibility and affordability."

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