Uzumba MP blasts appalling ZBC reach

HARARE - Uzumba Zanu PF MP Simbaneuta Mudarikwa has blasted the State broadcaster ZBC for failing to give adequate radio and television transmission countrywide.

“It’s unacceptable that 32 years after independence, we have sections in Zimbabwe which don’t get any radio from Zimbabwe and any TV from Zimbabwe, its criminal,” Mudarikwa told a workshop on access to information at Mazvikadei Dam on Friday.

Organised by the local chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa-Zimbabwe), the workshop — attended by members of the parliamentary portfolio committee on Media Information and Communication Technology, members from Parliament’s secretariat and journalists from national media houses — explored domestic laws and regional protocols on freedom of expression.

The licensing authority, the Tafataona Mahoso-led Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (Baz), is sleeping on the job, Mudarikwa said.

“Why are you there now, why are you there as a commission when these people don’t see TV or radio? The same thing happened in Beitbridge, the same thing happened in Mangwe constituency, again. democracy is about everybody being accommodated.”

The straight-talking Zanu PF MP said Transmedia will have to give a better signal and expand its reach amid reports the state-run Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) is only reaching 30 percent of the country. ZBC runs all broadcast media, which are seen as mouthpieces of Zanu PF.

ZBC subsidiary Transmedia is the only signal carrier in Zimbabwe at present and has transmitters at Pockets Hill in Harare and Montrose Studios in Bulawayo.

“It is critical that the delivery of the signal improve,” Mudarikwa said.

“Most of these stations we don’t even know they exist. Open the radio and there is a noise like there is a snake in your radio; you can run away.

“There is a need to improve the signal carrier.”

Transmedia has said it is looking for $64 million to buy transmission equipment from China, South Africa and Europe for its so-called National Transmission Grand Plan.

Alfred Mandere, Transmedia CEO has said in the past that Zimbabwe’s radio and television transmitters are now antiquated, with most of the equipment dating back to 1974.

Mudarikwa said it was unacceptable that ZBC as a national broadcaster beams only to towns and cities.

Media academic, Rashweat Mukundu described it as self-defeating government’s attempts to tighten control over domestic media and block the efforts of foreign outlets to beam unfiltered news into the country.

“Just look at the number of satellite dishes, even in the rural areas,”  he said. “Zimbabwe is the only country in Sadc with so many satellite dishes.”

The Broadcasting Services Act bans foreign funding in this capital-intensive sector, making it very difficult for private players to enter the market.

The Baz has licensed two private radio stations, the Zimpapers-run Star FM and Supa Mandiwanzira’s ZiFM.

Despite constitutional provisions for freedom of expression, officials have displayed an openly hostile attitude towards media freedom, and a draconian legislative framework continues to effectively inhibit the activities of journalists and media outlets. - Gift Phiri, Political Editor

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