The ZTR is one of the four prospective broadcasters short listed for ongoing public hearings by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ).
Zimpapers board of directors member Tapuwa Mandimutsira told the Tafataona Mahoso chaired BAZ on Thursday they will be an autonomous entity that will “bring a distinct product to the market”.
“The board of directors acknowledges the responsibility of journalists, artists and photographers to report, comment on affairs of city, state, nation and the world fairly and accurately regardless of any commercial, personal or political interests including those of any share holder, director, manager, editor or staff member,” said Mandimutsira.
But in a later interview with Radio Vop, Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)-Zimbabwe Chapter director Nhlanhla Ngwenya, who witnessed the two-hour-long hearing at the Harare International Conference Centre (HICC), dismissed the statements.
“This is the rhetoric that we have been hearing from some quarters in government particularly those that support Zanu (PF)…they try to suffocate the reality on the ground on the pretext that there is a positive story on Zimbabwe,” said Ngwenya.
“The propaganda empire is going to be expanded should they get a licence.”
Zimpapers owns eight papers among them the The Herald, weekly Sunday Mail, Sunday News, Chronicle, Manica Post, tabloid H-Metro, vernacular newspapers Kwayedza and Umthunya which are all perceived to be biased towards Zanu (PF).
Meanwhile, in his main presentation, Mandimutsira said the radio station would be funded from the ZimPapers coffers and has put its budget at US$612 510.
He said the station would start broadcasting in a period of 12-15 months if granted a licence.
According to Mandimutsira, the radio station would air news, current affairs, music among other programmes, on a 24 hour basis and would be manned by a staff of 37 led by a general manager.
He said the station will broadcast primarily in English, Shona and Ndebele and would reserve slots for minority languages such as Tonga and Karanga.
Zimpapers board chair Dr Paul Chimedza said the prospective radio station will join by the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Cooperation’s television and radio stations in relaying its signals through the Transmedia, a private company in which government has shares.
Chimedza, who is ZimPapers board chair, is also board chairman of Transmedia.
Asked how he would double being chairman of both entities, Dr Chimedza was at pains to convince the BAZ board saying he would instead recuse himself in cases of conflict of interest.
“Where we feel there would be conflict of interest or perceived conflict of interest the chairman will recuse himself,” he said.
Further probed on how he would make up for areas where the Transmedia transmitters cannot service, Chimedza said they will buy transmitters to man towers that have no transmitters in these areas.
According to MISA-Zimbabwe, the Transmedia transmitters cover not more than 60 percent of the country, leaving the rest of the population exposed to stations from neighbouring countries.
The other three applicants are Kiss FM, Radio VOP and Supa Mandiwanzira’s AB Communications. Radio VOP and AB Communications will have their public hearings before the end of the month.
Two successful applicants would be issued with licenses to operate radio stations for a period of 10 years each.