Information Minister, Chris Mushowe, says the government will seriously consider stopping the issuing of radio licenses until Zimbabwe’s economic situation improves. Mushowe told parliament’s information committee that the operating environment was bad and radio stations were not making profits.
Mushowe’s comments come as only two of the eight commercial radios stations licensed in 2013 have managed to go on air.
The other six are risking losing their licenses if they fail to start broadcasting in two months as required by law. The Broadcasting Services Act stipulates that any radio station licensed should start broadcasting within 18 months, failure of which the license would be withdrawn.
Mushowe said indications are that some of the radio stations granted licenses by the government have not yet complied with these regulations.
But Media Institute of Southern Africa Zimbabwe Chapter Broadcasting programs officer, Kholiwe Majama Nyoni, said it would be unfair for the minister to take those measures as there are many individuals and companies who are ready to start broadcasting anytime.
She said the broadcasting authority of Zimbabwe should have licensed companies with resources.
Media Centre director Ernest Mudzengi concurred saying it’s now coming out that clear that the licensing process was fraudulent and biased.
Even lawmakers questioned how a loss-making company like Kingstons, which is struggling to run a book selling business, could be expected to operate two radio stations.
At the same time, Mushowe said licenses for community radio stations would be only be issued once the digitization process has been completed.
Zimbabwe has missed the March 2016 deadline and earlier Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa said the digitization program was not budgeted for and government had no money to finance it.
He said government expected to raise the $200 million required for the program from the sale of the digital dividend spectrum to Netone but the deal failed after the state company failed to raise the money.
Mushowe said he was now exploring other ways of financing the project but could not say when the funds would be available.