Zim media stakeholders unrelenting on community radio licensing

By Tafadzwa Muranganwa

Despite government’s assurance that there will be licensing of community radio stations soon, media stakeholders   are not  relenting to ensure that this will be attainable.

This was heard at a ‘Stakeholders Engagement on Community Broadcasting’   organised by Amnesty International and Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (Zacras)   in the Capital on Friday which was attended by journalists ,the parliamentary portfolio committee on media, information and broadcasting  service ,community radio initiatives and  media reforms  lobby groups .

Presenting at the event, executive director of Radio VOP   John Masuku    reflected on how impactful community radio stations would have been in the face of the recent Cyclone Idai and the mines disasters that rocked the country.

“I was just envisioning how  Cyclone Idai , Kadoma   mines disaster and the recent Matobo mine collapse would have been minimised if there were community radio stations  in those affected areas,” reflected the veteran broadcaster.

Mr Masuku   also implored journalists to appraise themselves with   the there-tier broadcasting system so that they don’t misinform the public.

“My advice to  the media practitioners is to be fully aware that the country currently does not have any community radio stations  because this will enable them to inform  the citizens accordingly, ”added Masuku.

His remarks comes in suggestions by some  government officials that the community commercial radio stations in the mould of Diamond FM,Patsaka FM,Hevoi and Capitalk FM have already completed the internationally and regionally  standard of a three-tier-broadcasting system which comprises of public, commercial and community .

According to Vivienne Marara, Zacras  national coordinator, the  lack of transparency  by the government on key media policies  casts doubt on government’s sincerity on delivering  media reforms for community radio stations to operate.

“Government has made pronouncement that there will be licensing community radio station this year but there is absence of a clear time frame.

“Another   ‘opaqueness’ has been on the frequencies available for community radio stations which if we are able to get  such information we are then lobby from a  well-informed position,” asserted Marara.

With regards to licensing of community radio stations , Amnesty International’s Research Consultant for Southern Africa Lloyd Kuvheya    cited the inadequacies of  the Broadcasting Services Act as a major impediment to the licensing of the sector.

“What I find retrogressive in the Broadcasting Services Act is  Section 9 which  speaks on applications for licensing being done upon invitation which means if the Broadcast Authority of Zimbabwe does not call for any there is no provision to compel  it,” revealed Kuvheya.

Mutasa South legislator Regai Tsunga   proposed a petition to push government to license community radio stations while Honourable Joana Mamombe hinted on using the women parliamentary caucus as a platform to mobilise to add more   voices on the matter.