Zimbabwe's broadcast licensing authority will hold public hearings beginning October 18th to determine the suitability of applicants for the two commercial radio licences the authority has promised to issue.
But some are worried that the issuance of licenses might not happen until late 2012 based on earlier regulator statements.
The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Authority placed a notice in the state-controlled Herald newspaper stating that it will hold its first public hearing on one of the 14 commercial radio license applicants, KISS-FM, a Hotmedia venture.
The hearing will take place at the Harare International Conference Center. The authority called on members of the public to attend the inquiries which it says are intended to determine the suitability of applicants.
Nhlanhla Ngwenya, director for the Media Institute of Southern Africa’s Zimbabwe Chapter, said his organization welcomes this forward step but continues to have reservations.
He added that the authority’s failure to schedule hearings on the other applicants means the issuance process could stretch out.
Zimbabwe Union of Journalists Secretary General Foster Dongozi said he is worried by the delay in processing the applications, wondering why it has taken the authority three months to start processing applications, particularly when each applicant paid a 7,500 dollar fee.
Media expert Zenzele Ndebele told VOA's Chris Gande that BAZ seems to be dragging its feet on licensing new players in radio and he believes this is because of the elections on the horizon in 2012.
Elsewhere, the International Press Institute is calling for the government to repeal media laws they say are hindering the Zimbabwean press. The Institute says the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, among other laws, gives the government extensive control.
Institute officials say recent threats by Information Minister Webster Shamu to revoke licenses, and the Zimbabwe Media Comission’s call for a ban on the circulation of foreign papers unless they pay a percentage of their earning to the commission, as well as delays issuing licenes to independent radio stations, impede information flows.
IPI press freedom officer for Africa Naomi Hunt says recent government actions do not look like the media reform advocates have been seeking.