25 November 2011

Zimbabwe: BAZ Issues New Commercial Radio Licenses

Photo: Zac Crockett/Global Journalist
Zimbabwean journalists protest President Mugabe's harsh media restrictions on the independent press (file photo).

press release

The Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) on 24 November 2011 announced the state-controlled Zimpapers Talk Radio and AB Communications as Zimbabwe's first ever licensed free-to-air independent national commercial radio stations since independence in 1980.

This follows four public hearings conducted by BAZ in terms of the Commissions of Inquiry Act and Section 10 (8) of the Broadcasting Services Act.

The licensing of Zimpapers Talk Radio is set to raise eyebrows on whether the radio station will truly be independent as stipulated under the African Charter on Broadcasting considering that the government has a controlling stake in Zimpapers.

Former broadcast journalist, Supa Mandiwanzira, who was taken to task over his alleged links with Zanu PF, is the majority shareholder and CEO of Zi fm sterio under the AB Communications stable.

The licensing of the two applicants also brings into question the sincerity of the government's calls for Zimbabwean journalists manning foreign-based stations to return home and legalise their operations.

One of the foreign-based stations, Radio VOP (Communications), which was also among the applicants, was denied one of the two licenses that were on offer.

Kiss FM is the other unsuccessful applicant out of the four that had been shortlisted by BAZ.

Also likely to be in contention will be the legality of the licenses issued given the outstanding issue of the legal status of the current BAZ board which remains unresolved since its illegal constitution by the Ministry of Information in 2009.

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