Y-FM questions BAZ’s licensing criteria

Y-FM, a Bulawayo-based community radio initiative, seeking to provide a channel of communication for young people in the city has questioned the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ)’s licensing criteria of radio stations whereby applicants always have to wait for a call for applications by the authority as opposed to them initiating the process.

The community radio initiative, which early this year petitioned Parliament to debate the licensing of ‘real’ community radio stations after being snubbed by BAZ in its recent licensing exercise, last Thursday virtually met the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Media, Information and Broadcasting Services and raised concerns around the authority’s licensing criteria.

In its submission to Parliament, Y-FM said the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA) which empowers BAZ to invite applications from potential community radios has a clause that infringes on the rights of citizens.

“According to the Act, only BAZ determines when to invite applications from prospective broadcasters,” bemoaned Y-FM.  

“Since the year 2000, BAZ has only made three invitations for applications and only the last call in 2020 was specifically for community radios. The community radios had to wait for twenty years to be licensed and finally, when those were issued, only six community radios received licenses out of 57 districts in the country.”

Y-FM further explained: “This system being used by BAZ to license radios stalls development of community radios because one has to wait for up to five years for a call for applications – a call you won’t even know whether it is community or commercial.  Within that time frame, the community radio initiatives lose momentum since they are community funded and rely on volunteers for manpower.” 

Newspapers, argues Y-FM, which are in the same media industry with radios and television stations are not subject to a similar call for licensing.

“Whoever wants to establish a newspaper can do so at any time without waiting for a call for application,” said the community radio initiative.

The number of community radios licensed to date, Y-FM argues, is not proportionate with the population of about 15 million people in the country.

“The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee should revisit the BSA and empower prospective community radios to submit applications to BAZ whenever they are ready to do so in compliance with the broadcasting laws,” added Y-FM.

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