The Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services is working with UNESCO to strengthen and capacitate the 14 community radio stations so that they can be self-sustainable.
On the same note, the ministry is also working on amending the Broadcasting Services Act, to redefine foreign funding in order to allow Zimbabweans living abroad to support their respective community radio stations when they send back remittances.
The 14 community radio stations that were licensed so far are Ntepe-Manama from Manama in Gwanda, Lyeja FM – Hwange, Ingqanga FM – Mbembesi, Radio Bukalanga – Plumtree, Bayethe FM -Matobo, Beitbridge-Shashe in Beitbridge, Twasumbuka FM – Binga, Nyangani FM – Nyanga, Avuxeni FM – Chiredzi, Chimanimani – Chimanimani, Vemuganga – Chipinge, Ndau – Mahenye (Garahwa), Kazambezi FM – Kariba and Madziwa FM in Shamva.
These community radio stations are social enterprises and cannot make revenue from advertising as that is a preserve of commercial radio stations, said Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Nick Mangwana while responding to questions from journalists at a developmental reporting workshop underway in Mutare.
“We can’t allow advertising. Once we do that they become commercial radio stations competing for advertising, For example in Manicaland, there are Nyangani, Chimanimani and Garawa community stations and most of the areas they cover, Diamond, a commercial radio station is there. The moment they start cannibalising on Diamond’s commercial market, Diamond will say, ‘treat them as commercial radio stations,’” he said.
Mangwana highlighted that community radio stations were not supposed to focus on making money, as they will divert from community issues.
He added that since these stations were owned by the community, the locals will have total buy-in fundraising activities.
“They are still serving the community, through community leadership can contribute whether it’s the $2 000 a year levy, towards sustainability or whatever programme. They may sell a bucket of groundnuts, a chicken or goat to add some money but it has come from the community because it’s their thing.”
The permanent secretary noted most of these community radio stations were placed within corporate service and could benefit from the local businesses.
“Whilst at present the Broadcasting Services Act identifies contributions from Zimbabweans located elsewhere outside the border as foreign funds, we are in the midst of amending that because we believe Zimbabweans helping their community back home is not foreign and their money is not foreign funding. Therefore we expect that from now, most of the stations will receive help. We would expect some Kalangas in Leicester to help sustain Radio Bukalanga in Plumtree, expect Ndaus maybe in Chicago to help sustain a community radio in Chipinge and so on.”
Mangwana added that with support from partners such as UNESCO, the government was capacitating community radios.
“UNESCO is extremely supportive, in many different ways including when we ask for a generator or solar system backup. We also allow sponsored programmes that are different from advertising and we ask that the corporate sector helps sustain community radio,” he said.
UNESCO Regional Adviser for Communication and Information in Southern Africa, Al Amin Yusuph, explained that sustainability was vital for community radios.
“Establishing a radio is just five percent of the effort. 95 percent is capacity strengthening so they can be sustained. At the moment, we are working with the ministry to develop a long term programme to support them, for instance training on financial management skills and marketing skills,” he said.