Zimbabwe yesterday joined the world to commemorate World Radio Day with Government saying it was committed to opening up of airwaves in spite of viability challenges facing the media industry. Media, Information and Publicity Minister Webster Shamu said although communication was vital in social intercourse there was a need to grapple with issues of viability.
Minister Shamu said this in a speech read on his behalf by Director of Urban Communications Services in the Ministry of Media, Information and Publicity, Retired Major General Anywhere Mutambudzi at the commemoration of World Radio Day in Harare yesterday.
"There is a real danger that we may end up licensing in order to meet political goals but without looking at issues of viability and sustainability," said Minister Shamu.
"We saw this in print media where assent was on licensing new publishers to beat number targets but today we have a number of publications which are struggling still more, some of which are still to start publishing despite having received their licenses a long time back."
The Minister added: "This multi-purpose medium can help people to engage in discussions in topics that affect them. It can save lives during natural and man-made disaster and provided journalists with a platform to report facts and tell their stories."
World Radio Day was proclaimed by UNESCO at its 36th General Conference in Paris in 2012 and falls on the 13th of February each year.
This year's commemoration was meant to raise awareness in the general public and media in the value of radio, improve international cooperation between radio broadcasters and encourage decision makers to create and provide access to information through radio, including community radio.
Government, said Minister Shamu, was 'overarchingly' considering the mapping of different categories of radio licences when it embarks on community broadcasting.
"There is a real danger of politics overlaying policy. Community radio broadcasting is straightforwardly about communities, the common factor being recognisable homogeneity founded on the multiple layers of demonstrable identities.
"This is a service meant to empower communities, not to empower individuals, political parties and non-governmental organisations, there has to be a mechanism for insulating this facility against undue influence and this starts with the funding mechanism and an ownership structure or licensable structure which disperses power within the community," he said.