‘Final’ push for licensing of community radio stations gathers momentum

…as the 2019 community radio conference roars to life on Tuesday

By Tafadzwa Muranganwa

The Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (ZACRAS), a local media lobby group is mounting pressure on government to finally license community radio stations by convening this year’s ‘indaba’ with a clear mind to map a conclusive way forward in the development of this neglected broadcasting sector.

Zimbabwe is yet to have a fully fledged  three-tier-broadcasting system namely public service, commercial and community, as outlined in the African Charter on Broadcasting and the new administration led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been making seemingly procrastinated promises to  license community radio stations as spelt out in its media reform agenda.

Recently, government  appointed a board for the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) long after formal interviews were conducted and ZACRAS national coordinator Vivienne Marara  said this and other issues  actually set the tone for  this year’s  ‘Community Broadcasting Indaba’ which takes place on Tuesday in Harare

“The Community Broadcasting Indaba seeks to bring together media stakeholders, with an interest in community broadcasting, to discuss the development of the sector. Presently, Zimbabwe has no licensed community radios and this has greatly hampered access to information within different local communities.

“Only recently, a substantive Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) Board was constituted. In organizing the indaba, ZACRAS therefore saw it fit to be proactive and tactical in approach and set the pace in terms of community radio development, ”said Marara.

She  hopes  that at the end of the ‘indaba’, interested stakeholders will collectively map a way forward for rapid community broadcasting development in Zimbabwe’.

Last month,the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Publicity, Information and Broadcasting services., Mr Nick Mangwana  speaking at the 2019 Zimbabwe Media Stakeholders Conference said the government was ready to parcel out  community radio  licenses using the still to be reformed Broadcasting Services Act but the ZACRAS boss  said there is the need for a wider consultative policy on a more favourable regulatory framework.

“Additionally, one of our anticipated key take aways from the indaba is that as a country we develop community radio regulations which guide the operations of the sector with a clear development thrust. This should of course be done through a consultative process which takes into cognizance stakeholder input,” Marara added.

The one day event will be graced by media stakeholders including community radio aspirants which are initiatives constituting the majority of ZACRAS membership, civil society organisations and the chairperson of parliamentary portfolio committee on information, media and broadcasting Services Hon. Prince Dubeko Sibanda who will present a paper on the legislative mandate of Parliament in ensuring the success of community broadcasting in Zimbabwe

The conference will be followed by the association’s annual general meeting.