Community radio stations appeal to MPs in push to be allowed to operate

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THE Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (Zacras) has lobbied the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Media, Information and Broadcasting Services to push government to establish regulations that allow the establishment of community radio stations in the country.
Zacras is the umbrella body of over 28 community radio stations operating in the country, albeit in a semi-legal arrangement. 
In a position paper seen by, Zacras noted with concern that since the promulgation of the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA) in 2001 which allows for the establishment of a three tier broadcasting system, government is yet to licence community radio stations. 
Government recently issued licences to eight more commercial radio stations to operate as metro stations, following the issuance of two national commercial radio licences to Zi FM and Star FM.
“Despite all this longstanding advocacy and lobbying there are still some critical areas that still need to be addressed over and around legislation for community radios in the country. 
“The most evident of these is the fact that at the time of this presentation to the Portfolio Committee on Media, Information and Broadcasting Services, there are as yet no regulations that inform the operations of community radio stations,” the position paper read in part.
Zacras further noted that licensing community radio stations would offer marginalised communities the right to self-expression on development issues and also increase access to information in the public interest as outlined in Sections 61 and 62 of the Bill of rights contained in the Constitution.
The organisation said the portfolio committee must ensure that government establishes democratic community radio regulations through an ancillary statutory to an amended Broadcasting Services Act.
“This Statutory Instrument should outline a clear definition of community radio stations to include both urban and rural communities, through a combination of geography and social interest groups.
This would entail a more inclusive and non-discriminatory approach without only limiting community radio stations to rural areas alone, but also including the urban and peri-urban communities,” Zacras said. 
Appearing before the same committee in May, Information minister Jonathan Moyo defined a community, in terms of the licensing of community radio stations, as ‘rural’, ‘geographical’ and ‘working under a Chief, with the Provincial and District Administrators as part of the set up.’Advertisement

Once licensed, Zacras said the portfolio committee must ensure that the community radio stations have editorial independence “through the limiting the role of politicians and political appointees in the boards of leadership of the stations.”
The media organisation also called on government to establish a financial sustainability model for community radio stations as proposed in the Information and Media Panel of Inquiry report, which is inclusive of government support, development partners and the community itself, so as to ensure the sustainable continuity of these community radio stations, leading to enhanced transparency and accountability to the concerned communities.