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Radio initiative petitions Parly over licences

BY NQOBANI NDLOVU A BULAWAYO-BASED community radio initiative has petitioned Parliament demanding licensing of “real” community radio stations. Y Star FM was snubbed by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) in its recent efforts to get a community radio licence. In its petition to Parliament last Wednesday, the community radio initiative argued that it was unfairly denied a broadcasting licence. In February 2020, BAZ invited applications for 10 free-to-air community radio broadcasting services, 19 campus radio stations and six free-to-air national commercial television broadcasting services. It also invited community radio stations with a language bias that were interested to submit their applications for licences from places such as Hwange and Victoria Falls, Beitbridge and Shashi, Mbembesi, Manama and Legion, Empandeni, Maphosa, Ndolwane and Plumtree, Binga, Kamativi, Kariba, Mapengolo and Siabuwa, Chikombedzi, Chiredzi, Rutenga, Mahenye and Malipati, Chipinge, Chimanimani, Gwendingwe, Rusitu, Chibuwe; Shamva and Alaska as well as Rukotso and Susamoyo. Harare and Bulawayo were excluded from the selected geographical areas. The licence fee for a national commercial television broadcasting service was set at $306 000 per annum, plus $42 500 application fee and a public inquiry fee of $127 000. A licence fee for community radio broadcasting services was pegged at $17 000 per year, plus $8 500 application fee. Campus radio station application fee was pegged at $42 500 plus $21 500 application fee. “We wish that the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Information and Broadcasting Services debates the whole licensing process of community radios so that applications are invited from all over the country and from different special interest groups, not from selected few areas as is the case now,” the petition read in part. “We also pray that they debate and comes up with a definition of community radio. “The process of defining the licensing of community radios and defining what community radios are should take place as soon as this petition is received in Parliament. “It should not take long since the issue of community radios has been spoken about for some time now. “We feel the country should move fast in embracing the three-tier broadcasting system,” the Y Star FM petition added. Some communities such as in rural Matabeleland South and North are forced to rely on South African and Zambian radio and television broadcasts due to lack of local community radios. Government has maintained control of the broadcasting sector despite calls from different stakeholders for the opening of the airwaves to community radio initiatives and others. Follow Nqobani on Twitter@NqobaniNdlovu

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