Government through the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) has issued broadcasting services licences for three main categories: free to air national commercial television broadcasting service, free to air community radio broadcasting service and campus radio stations.
The authority issued six national commercial televisions, 10 community radio and 19 campus radio licences.
This bold step by the Second Republic under the leadership of President Mnangagwa, is true to the promise of freeing the airwaves to enhance democracy.
Sadly, though, there are some among us who do not know what it means to free the airwaves – the activity of broadcasting on radio and television.
The recent pronouncement by Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) secretary-general Mr Charlton Hwende that his party wants to launch a television station ahead of general elections next year, made bare a warped view of what it means to free the airwaves.
Wrote Mr Hwende on Twitter: “To launch a truly independent channel on DStv Channel you need monthly fees of around $8 000. Let’s do it Zimbabwe we are left with only 12 months before the election, so we need $96 000 and we free the airwaves.”
How are the airwaves free when they are controlled by a political party? What would Mr Hwende say if Zanu-PF, the ruling party, was to own a television station?
The reasons why the law does not want Government to control the airwaves also apply to political parties.
Section 61 of the Constitution is clear that: “Broadcasting and other electronic media of communication have freedom of establishment, subject only to State licensing procedures that are necessary to regulate the airwaves and other forms of the signal distribution; and are independent of control by government or by political or commercial interests.”
Let creatives create content; let the people speak. The airwaves are not free when they are under political control.
This is why we welcome the timely clarification by Government that no political party will be given a broadcasting licence in Zimbabwe.
In an interview, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Deputy Minister, Kindness Paradza said the Government’s policy was not to issue broadcasting licences to political parties.
“Multichoice is licenced and they are aware of the rules and regulations governing broadcasting in Zimbabwe so they will not be an accomplice to an illegal or pirate channel.
We are sure Multichoice will not be persuaded to carry an illegal channel on its platform. So far, our policy is not to issue broadcasting licences to political parties considering this is a finite national asset which cannot be issued out willy nilly.
“We have many political parties in this country, so if we are to give licences to all of them, our allocated spectrum will be full and we will not have any space left for future generations.
“So simply put it’s a no. Even the ruling party Zanu-PF has not been issued with a broadcasting licence,” said Deputy Minister Paradza.
Deputy Minister Paradza said according to the Electoral law, during the election period each political party is allocated free time on the national broadcaster to sell their ideas and manifestos.
We urge the CCC, to pay for timeslots on any broadcaster of their choice. We also urge the party to fight for freedom of the airwaves and not the capture of radio and TV.
In any case, who would want to listen to political party mambo-jambo 24/7?