ZMC Seek Clarity Over Opening Of Airwaves

The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) continues to have the monopoly  of the airwaves despite the government of national unity agreed to roll-out media reforms.

The three principals also agreed to reform the ZBC, which the others partners in the Government of Nationl Unity (GNU) say is partisan in favour of Zanu (PF).

ZMC commissioner Matthew Takaona, ZMC commissioner, told a media conference in Harare, that the commission had resolved to meet with the BAZ board to seek clarity over the delays in freeing the airwaves.

“One of one mandates as the ZMC is to ensure and promote freedom of the media and expression,” said Takaona.

“At our last meeting we resolved to meet BAZ and a meeting is being sought. We are worried that not a single licence has been issues,” said Takaona, whose ZMC has licenced seven media houses to start newspapers.

Meanwhile, Nhlanhla Ngwenya, the director of the Media Institute of Southern Africa-Zimbabwe, said on Friday his non- governmental organisation would launch its free the
airwaves campaign in Chitungwiza, one of the country’s on Saturday as pressure mounts on the government to liecence independent players.

“The campaign is motivated by the slow-paced manner in which the coalition government is attending to reforms in the broadcasting sector. Beyond isolated rhetorical promises of broadcasting reforms there hasn’t been demonstrable commitment to urgently democratise the sector and enhance access to information and citizen’s full participation in the on-going transitional processes,” said Ngwenya.

The state-run ZBC has remained the sole broadcaster operating in the country despite the 2000 Supreme Court ruling that quashed its broadcasting monopoly and compelled the authorities to open up the broadcasting sector and instate a three tier broadcasting system
comprising public, commercial and community broadcasting stations.

Aspiring broadcasters have had to resort to operating from foreign countries, where they are broadcasting into Zimbabwe through Short Wave and Medium Wave.

Ngwenya said while the stations, had been condemned as “pirate radios” by President Mugabe and Zanu (PF) these had become one of the main sources of alternative information despite being hamstrung by the limited amount of time they are on air.

“Whereas ZBC is on air 24 hours daily, the stations broadcast for an average two hours a day. While the principals undertook to reconstitute the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe within a month of the SADC conference held in Namibia mid August, it is feared the deadline will lapse – just like other deadlines the coalition had set in the past.

“Going by past experience, we doubt if there would be wide public consultations on the reformation of the country’s broadcasting sector, particularly transforming ZBC into a true public broadcaster. The process is likely to be driven by politicians in their pursuit of partisan interests. Thus, by embarking on broadcasting campaigns MISA-Zimbabwe hopes to initiate debate and build public consensus on broadcasting policy reforms.”