BAZ LICENSES SIX NEW TV STATIONS
[24th November 2020]
THE Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) has awarded six free-to-air national commercial television broadcasting licences in terms of the Broadcasting Services Act [“the Act”].
Note: A “free-to-air” broadcasting service is one that is not encoded, i.e., does not require a decoder to enable its signal to be received.
Does this mean freeing-up the airwaves of Zimbabwe?
Free-to-air television broadcasting in Zimbabwe has been dominated by the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) over the past 40 years. Until now, ZBC has held a monopoly in this field.
Whether, as claimed by the Government and BAZ, the granting of these six free-to-air TV licences will really “free up the airwaves” remains to be seen. Will the new TV stations have a fresh approach to content – news, views and entertainment – or will viewers find themselves complaining that what they see on their screens is too similar to what they have been used to on ZBC TV? Whatever lies in store by way of content, there is also the question of how soon the new TV stations will take to the air? Doubts have been expressed on both points.
A Welcome Development, but …
Media watchdog MISA Zimbabwe, while welcoming the prospect of more TV stations, has voiced its concerns about the lack of diversity in the selection of the new licensees, pointing out that:
“The new TV licence holders either already hold print or broadcasting licences or are linked to the government or the governing party. With this scenario, the country risks having a homogeneity of news and views, an anathema to democracy.
If Zimbabwe is to have a truly diverse media, there is a need for more players from different backgrounds to be granted licences.”
Concerns like this rest on a firm constitutional foundation. The Constitution envisages a broadcasting sector that will exhibit “fairness and diversity of views broadly representing Zimbabwean society” as part of a media sector that is entitled not only to freedom of the media but also to “fair competition and diversity” [Constitution, section 249(1)(a) and (i)].
When will the new TV stations start broadcasting?
This may take anything up to eighteen months. That is the period the new licensees have been given to begin broadcasting, failing which licences will be liable to forfeiture.
BAZ Board chairperson Charles Manzi Sibanda told journalists in Harare last week that the new licensees have been given 18 months to roll out their plans and go on air. “In the event of failure to broadcast, the licences will be availed to other aspirants through a similar process (of selection),” he said.
The Successful Applicants
The awarding of the six licences is the culmination of a lengthy step-by-step process laid down by the Broadcasting Services Act. Details of that process were given in our bulletin BAZ Shortlists 14 Candidates For Television Licences of 4th September 2020 [link]. The fourteen short-listed applicants underwent a public interview process in October, as required by the Act.
The six TV broadcasting licences were awarded to the following applicants:
Jester Media Services trading as 3K TV [Daily News]
Zimbabwe Newspapers (1980) trading as ZTN [State controlled company]
Rusununguko Media trading as NRTV [controlled by Zimbabwe National Army]
Acacia Media Group trading as Kumba TV [fronted by Sharon Mugabe, a former aspirant ZANU PF MP]
Fairtalk Communications trading as Ke Yona TV [part-owned by Rusununguko above]
Channel Dzimbahwe trading as Channel D [Happison Muchechetere, ex-ZBC].
Every licensee must, within thirty days of receiving the licence, publish it at their own expense in a national newspaper.
The Unsuccessful Applicants
BAZ must give unsuccessful applicants its reasons for refusing their applications. Section 43 of the Act allows an applicant aggrieved by a refusal the right to appeal to the Administrative Court. The right to appeal must be exercised with twenty-eight days of being notified of the decision not to issue a licence.
The unsuccessful applicants were:
Black Berry Zimbabwe
Heart and Soul
Just In Time TV
Media Net Productions