Zimbabwe offers two commercial radio licences

HARARE – Zimbabwe has offered two commercial radio licences, according to a newspaper advertisement published on Thursday, a move that will end decades of state domination of the airwaves.\r\n

The advert in the state-controlled Herald newspaper taken out by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe said the licence would run for 10 years and stations would be required to pay $15,000 annually plus 1 percent of their gross yearly turnover.

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Reforming the media is a contentious issue within the power-sharing government set up two years ago by President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

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Tsvangirai has accused state-controlled newspapers and television of being biased towards Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party.

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Several newspapers have been licensed since May 2010 by a reconstituted Zimbabwe Media Commission, which regulates the newspaper publishing industry.

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Three national private dailies are now being published, along with two state-owned titles.

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The broadcasting authority could not be reached for comment and the advert did not mention opening up the television sector monopolised by the state’s Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation.

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Mugabe wants polls to be held this year but Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change said elections can only be held within the next 12 months. They first want a more open press and constitutional and political reform.

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In a statement published in the state media on Thursday, BAZ said the applications deadline for the two licences on offer is the 30th of
June 2011. The authority said licence fees application will attract an initial US$ 2 500 fee while the inquiry will cost US$ 7500. The
licence fee will cost US$15 000 while the frequency fees will cost US$30 a month.

“In terms of Section 10 of the Broadcasting Services Act [Chapter 12:06], the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe hereby invites
applications for licences to provide the following classes of licences: Free to air national commercial radio broadcasting service,”
the BAZ said in  statement.

The BAZ said the licence to be issued will be for 10 years. The BAZ is headed by the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) chief executive officer,
Tafataona Mahoso who faces accusations of stifling the media in the past when he was the head of the Media Information Commission (MIC).

So far the ZMC has issued licences to more than 20 newspapers and magazines in the private sector after the board was appointed.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) statement on Africa Day on Wednesday accused President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu (PF) of stifling
the efforts by the unity government to issue broadcasting licences to prospective players. The media organisation said other nations have
more radio stations and television stations across the African continent.

MISA’s statement comes as a Zanu (PF) official, Bright Matonga said the country is not in need of any broadcasting players.

Matonga accused journalists and some political parties of demanding broadcasting licenses now because the country is heading towards
elections.