Building vibrant and tolerant democracies
The controversial Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) has kicked off the battle for control of potentially-critical local commercial radio stations in Zimbabwe by calling for applications to run local services in 14 urban areas.
According to an advert placed in The Sunday Mail - a paper fiercely loyal to President Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party - the local free-to-air licenses will be allocated to Harare, Bulawayo, Mutare, Gweru, Masvingo, Chinhoyi, Bindura, Gwanda, Marondera, Lupane, Plumtree, Kariba, Victoria Falls and Beitbridge.
Zimbabweans have been waiting a long time for a very long time for local radio stations but - coming just days after the widely derided decision to grant two new national radio licences to groups loyal to Mugabe - few people believe that the process will be transparent or that the licences will be granted to anyone other than ZANU PF allies and apologists.
The announcement has already come in for criticism, particularly from the Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (ZACRAS), which has expressed its scepticism about the BAZ's sudden willingness to 'liberalise the airwaves', having fought it for so long.
In particular, ZACRAS announced that levying astronomical fees - such as an application fee of US$2,500, a public inquiry fee of US$7,500 and a basic license fee of US$50,000 - would deter many individuals and organisations from applying, undermining the plurality of the media - one of the key aims of liberalising the airwaves.
ZACRAS maintains that community radio stations - as opposed to local commercial radio stations - are critical since communities need access to information and the ability to freely express themselves. Increased community participation - a cricital component of successful local radio stations - would promote transparency and accountability. The ZACRAS Harare Declaration of 2011 defines community radio as being 'for, by and about the community, whose ownership and management is representative of the community, and pursues a social development agenda'.
As such, the regulatory authority should ensure that real community radios with a clear mandate foradvancing community developmental issues are licensed. .
The deadline for submission of applications is 31 January 2012.ShareThis