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Zim pledges commercial radio licences

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Zim pledges commercial radio licences

The Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) last week called for applications for commercial radio licences in a move that could, if it represents a genuine bid to liberalise electronic media, end the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation's monopoly in the sector, says the Voice of America.

But some advocates of media reform expressed scepticism saying the promise to issue two commercial radio licences could merely be intended to placate the Southern African Development Community which (Sadc) has been stepping up pressure for democratic reforms.

An extraordinary Sadc summit focused on Zimbabwe and its electoral timetable is to be held in SA next month at which time President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party could find themselves under closer regional scrutiny.

Media Institute of Southern Africa Zimbabwe chapter chairperson Loughty Dube said: “The deadline is short and it shows the government is not honest,” writes News Day.

“They want to make sure things remain as they are for a long time knowing for certain that no one was prepared for commercial radio stations. They must start with community radio stations first before licensing commercial ones.”

Henry Masuku, director of the Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations, said although it was a welcome relief, government should consider community radio stations as well.

The licences offered would run for 10 years and there is an application fee of $2 500, according to SW Radio Africa.

There are also annual fees of $15 000 plus 1% of the gross annual turnover and $7 500 in public consultation fees. Other miscellaneous fees will also be charged and the application deadline is 30 June.

The composition of the BAZ board, headed by former Media, Information and Communication minister Tafataona Mahoso, has been a contentious issue for years now. Stalwart Zanu-PF supporters were appointed to the board, without consultation, in 2009.

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