The government says it is working on the issuance of television licenses to independent players, as it is currently in the process of looking at the available broadcasting spectrum, a cabinet minister has said.
Responding to questions during the 11th Annual Marketers’ Convention hosted by the Marketers Association Zimbabwe (MAZ), in Bulawayo, Thursday, Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Monica Mutsvangwa confirmed the issuing body, Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ), was seized with the matter.
Her response was prompted by questions as to when Zimbabwe would avail more television stations seeing that a lot of creative content was broadcast on social media platforms.
Zimbabwe currently has one television station – ZTV – yet it was the first country in Southern African to open a television channel in 1960 and second in Africa after Nigeria.
The Minister has been evasive on the actual date when the licences will be issued and in June she told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Information, Media and Broadcasting Services that six new television stations will be licenced before the end of the year.
Mutsvangwa said what had stalled the issuance of licenses was the lack of a BAZ board.
“On the issue of expanding channels, are you aware that for five years, we didn’t have a board at BAZ. BAZ is the statutory body mandated with issuing licenses and I must say those processes were booked now. I have a board in place at BAZ and soon will be starting work, looking at the spectrum to see what we have and issue out licenses,” she claimed.
The minister said the government “really” wanted more televsion channels, not just public channels but commercial stations.
“There’s a lot of content out there and if we don’t say it as Zimbabwe, we need to tell our story (sic). We can’t have our children depending so much on content on Facebook. We need to tell our story and it should be a variety of stories.
“If one wants to watch educational programmes let them watch. If they want to watch sports, let them. This is in process as we are doing it,” Mutsvangwa said.
The BAZ board was announced in July 2019 and the members are Ambassador Bornface Guwa Chidyausiku, Tendai Karonga, V. Makamure-Nduna, Vimbai Nyakudya, Chief Mabikwa, Oliver Mandipaka, Rodney Mazeyewe, Victoria Spiwe Mamvura, Jonathan Mapinda, Audrey Chihota and Jennifer Chakanyuka.
Meanwhile, the information minister said the government was also working on a media policy.
“Truly so we are reformists. The Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill, is part of ongoing reforms in the media as we repeal the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA).
The Bill is part of the ongoing reforms to align the country’s laws to the Constitution and we are doing that because it is good for us Zimbabweans.
“The second republic upholds all that was enshrined in the constitution, it is important we adhere and that is what we are doing as we come up with all these reforms,” she said.
Mutsvangwa added that specifically, the ZMC Bill provides for the establishment of the Zimbabwe Media Commission, its powers and functions as well as the financing thereof.
“The ultimate objective is to emerge with a vibrant, non-polarised, diverse and pluralistic media sector, which positively contributes to the deepening of the country’s democratic processes and the socio-economic development agenda,” she said.
However, the proposed ZMC Bill has been condemned by media practitioners for giving the media minister too much power, that it seeks to criminalise the journalism profession and muzzle free speech by encouraging self-censorship.