Extend licences to community radios

HARARE - Over the past few days, we have heard various reports on what government is planning on doing with its frequency spectrum, including reports of licensing new commercial radio stations.

Rumours have suggested that government had invited applications for the available airwaves, with authorities looking to license 25 new commercial radio stations.

We also know that authorities have in the past not been too keen or rather unwilling to license independent players.

We welcome government’s change of stance and hope for an independent system of concessions and issue of licences.

The licences should be extended to community radios.

A microphone and a radio transmitter in the hands of a community organiser imparts power, which some liken to the life-changing impact when humans first tamed fire.

That’s why the prospect of new community radio stations alongside commercial radio stations in Zimbabwe, for which the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (Baz) is vetting applications, is so vital and urgent.

As media corporations have been girding their loins for licences, we hope government desists from continuing to put the power of the media in fewer hands.

We need to see the flowering of small, local media outlets.

And an essential component of this sector is community radio.

By March, if government pronouncements are anything to go by, commercial groups in Zimbabwe will have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to get a radio-station licence. But again, we reiterate, this must be extended to community radios.

This is a historic opportunity for communities all over the country to have a voice over their airwaves. The airwaves are supposed to belong to the public. This is a chance for groups to actually own and control their own media outlets.

With this, we also hope that the so-called , “pirate” radio stations, will be licensed by Baz.

These radios were and are broadcasting in communities across Zimbabwe by people frustrated with the failures of the commercial and public media system, which was increasingly closed to the communities and seemingly beholden to political underwriters and interest groups.

This is an opportunity for government to open the radio dial to a new generation of commercial and non-commercial, community-based stations.

After 15 years of organising, the people have won.

Across Zimbabwe, from Musambakaruma to Mandidzudzure, people  were fighting against the shackling of the airwaves.

We need to broadcast in indigenous languages and we need to give our folks a voice in the community that they never had.

Radio is the most accessible form of mass communication.

Even the poorest village has at least one radio around which people could gather.

The airwaves are a public treasure, and we have to take them back.

Comments (1)

Totenda tadhla chakata nekuti tikavanga kuita mupururu webenzi unozosvoda vana Mahoso vosunga mbiradzakondo

MukarangawekuMberengwa - 20 January 2014

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