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Unsuccessful License Applicant Takes Zimbabwe Broadcasting Authority to Court

Supa Mandiwanzira, director of AB Communications, said losing applicants are free to challenge BAZ decisions, but insisted that he won his license on the basis of merit and is proceeding with plans to broadcast

KISS-FM, an unsuccessful applicant for one of two commercial radio licenses awarded recently by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe, is challenging those awards in Administrative Court, maintaining that the process was flawed from the outset.

Many others have criticized the license awards to state publisher Zimpapers and AB communications, both with close links to President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF.

The Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has also tabled a motion in Parliament to have the license awards rescinded.

Sharon Mugabe, KISS-FM company director and spokesperson said in a statement on Wednesday that the startup radio station submitted a substantive and compelling proposal in the hope of bringing diversity to Zimbabwe’s airwaves.

“KISS-FM is convinced that, amongst other factors, the Authority failed to take into account a number of material considerations which led to their decision to deny KISS-FM a radio license," her statement said.

The ZANU-PF leaning Herald newspaper questioned Ms Mugabe’s "sincerity," saying her company, Imago Young & Rubicam, took a hand in planning and running President Mugabe's electronic and print media campaign in the 2008 presidential election.

Nhlanhla Ngwenya, director of the Media Institute of Southern Africa in Zimbabwe, said such court challenges are not surprising as the process lacked transparency. He said it is important for the BAZ to publicize how it reached its decision on the licenses.

“We all know that Sharon Mugabe’s company produced the ZANU-PF campaign material for the 2008 elections, but it doesn’t take away the fact that the process itself is vulnerable to litigation,” Ngwenya said.

Supa Mandiwanzira, director and principal shareholder in AB Communications, said unsuccessful applicants are free to challenge BAZ decisions but insisted that he won the license on the basis of merit and is proceeding with plans to broadcast.

“As far as we are concerned we have no business commenting on what others are doing. We will comment by launching a station," Mandiwanzira said.

Meanwhile, in his year-end message to Parliament on Thursday Mr Tsvangirai said media reforms, especially the BAZ board appointments and issuance of licenses, "has become a national joke." Mr. Tsvangirai said the BAZ board is current illegally constituted and therefore unlawfully issuing broadcasting licenses.

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