MDC-T Threatens Court Action Against TV Licencing Bias

THE MDC-T says it will approach the courts to try and block any attempts by the current Zanu PF led government to issue new digital television licences to its cronies.

This follows plans by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) to launch 12 new High Definition channels as the country prepares to migrate from analogue to digital broadcasting March this year.

Six have already been snapped by the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) while the remaining half is up for grabs among private players.

This has not gone down well with the country’s main opposition which is up in arms with the biased process.

In a statement, MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu on Wednesday praised the continued government efforts to open up the airwaves but warned the same kind of bias was already being shown in the allocation of digital channels.

“… the MDC is, however, very concerned that of the twelve (12) digital television channels to be launched in the country within the next few weeks, six (6) channels have already been taken up by the bankrupt and poorly managed Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC). The remaining six (6) channels will be taken up by private operators,” Gutu said.

The MDC-T spokesperson said it was “frightening and very depressing” that ZBC can be given the right to run six additional channels without going to an open public tender.

The distressed public broadcaster has often been accused of being a Zanu PF mouthpiece for biased coverage towards the ruling party.

“We strongly suspect that the Zanu PF regime is already playing its usual games of ensuring that the electronic media is rigidly and tightly controlled and monitored to ensure that only the views and policies of the faction-ridden and disintegrating Zanu PF political party dominate the local airwaves,” Gutu said.

He said the opaque licencing regime under President Robert Mugabe’s rule was consistent with world dictatorships which suppress media freedom. 

“In fact,” he continued, “the MDC is convinced that the six (6) digital television licences that are now up for grabs by private players will, somehow, be granted to companies that are controlled by or in some way, linked to Zanu PF functionaries and some other such regime apologists. 

“The people of Zimbabwe deserve to be allowed to fully and genuinely exercise their fundamental right of freedom of expression. 

“The MDC will be closely monitoring  the process of how the six (6) private digital television licences are going to be awarded and if need be, we shall resort to taking appropriate court action to ensure that the Zanu PF regime doesn’t abuse the allocation of these licences in order to push its own nefarious and tyrannical agenda.”

The BAZ, which is under government’s firm control and also chaired by known Zanu PF apologist, Tafataona Mahoso, has previously been accused of granting radio licences to individuals and firms which have close links to the ruling party.