By Joel Mandaza
The Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) says it will only issue community radio licenses to those who show the financial capacity to run the stations.
This comes on the back of increased calls for the government to license community-based radio stations since the appointment of the new BAZ board this year.
Speaking at a Community Radio licensing Indaba in Harare on Tuesday, BAZ board Chairperson Charles Sibanda said they do not want to waste slots on chancers.
“While we will be licensing radio stations, we want to make sure there is sustainability. We do not want to see community radio projects suffer from stillbirths or premature births, so we will be asking if the applicants
have the financial capacity to run a radio project and that will influence the licensing process,” Sibanda said.
Sibanda added that although community radios are not required to make a profit that does not mean they should run at a loss.
“I understand that Community Radios are not supposed to make a profit but they should attain at least a surplus which will ensure longevity and the community continues to benefit from their existence.
“We don’t want to give people licenses then they use those radio stations to beg for money from donors,” he said.
However, Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (ZACRAS) chairman Gift Mapimbiri said access to community radio station should not be anchored on capacity.
“BAZ has given us what it expects from us and I believe in the same vein we should lay out our beliefs to them as well. Community Radios are not a privilege but a right. They are anchored on two freedoms the freedom to
access information and freedom of expression.
“These are in the constitution and are non-negotiable when BAZ makes decisions on radio licenses they should be informed by the supreme laws of the land and issues like capacity should not be a consideration,” he said.
Debate on community radios has been with the country for some time with advocates of the idea arguing that they are needed to complete the three-tier broadcasting system which comprises of public service (state-owned), commercial (private) and community radios.
Since independence in 1980 Zimbabwe only has public service and commercial radio stations.
Government through the secretary of Information and broadcasting services Nick Mangwana indicated that they are now waiting for BAZ as the regulator to license the radio stations.