Govt accuses community radio ‘initiatives’ of operating illegally, threatens a clampdown

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URBAN Communications director in the information ministry, Anywhere Mutambudzi, has threatened to clamp down on Community Radio “initiatives” accusing them of being donor funded and operating illegally.
Community radio stations have not yet been licenced and this is so despite the fact that the law (Broadcasting Services Act (2001) (BSA) recognise a three – tier broadcasting system.
BSA also sets out the criteria as well as the licensing process.
In the absence of community radios, some groups have set up some Community Radio Initiatives (CRIs) in preparation for going on air in the event of government calling for licence applications.
These CRIs which falls under the Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (ZACRAS) conduct community meetings and gather content which they process and disseminate through CDs WhatsApp, Facebook, and sound cloud to reach out to their audiences.
Mutambudzi, who was the guest speaker at the World Radio Day celebrations at Murewa centre on Friday, said government was not happy with the community radio “initiatives”, saying they were operating illegally.
“There are some people who are claiming to be community radio stations but the fact of the matter is that the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe which is a regulatory body in the ministry responsible for issuing out licences, because of various constraints, has not issued a single community radio station licence. So, if you are saying that you are a community radio station you are constituted illegally,” said Mutambudzi.
He said government was very soon going to define what a “genuine” community radio is.
“So, I think you want to try and make a move to ensure that you are legally constituted before the long arm of the law reaches out to you,” he said.
ZACRAS national coordinator Vivienne Marara argued that her member organisations were not broadcasting.
“The CRIs are registered as trusts with the Deeds office and they have recognised statutory documents which enable them to operate in the country not as radio stations but content production houses,” she told at the same event.
“There is no way we can regularise ourselves in terms of getting a licence because the only way, as been espoused by the BSA, for community radio stations, commercial radio stations and Television stations to broadcast, is when government calls for applications for licences and we submit our applications and then, depending on their selection criteria, they can then award radio licences but as for now there is no way we can regularise our operations.”Advertisement

She added, “As ZACRAS this is an issue which we have been battling with for a long time. There should be provisions in our laws which indicate the number of times per year that BAZ can call for licences.”