Radio licences: Minister given first slot

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DEPUTY Minister of Information Supa Mandiwanzira’s AB Communications will enjoy the first slots among five prospective broadcasters who were Saturday invited for the first round of public hearings by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) in two weeks’ time.
According to dates announced by BAZ, AB Communications’ Gogogoi FM will open the hearings on 19 August in Masvingo’s Civic Centre. Two days later, BAZ will hear yet another application from the company’s Faya FM in Gweru’s Fairmile Hotel.
“The Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe wishes to advise members of the public that in terms of Section 10 (6) of the Broadcasting Services Act (Chapter: 12:06), the shortlisted applicants published herein are required to attend public inquiries to determine the applicants’ suitability to be licenced for the provision of Free-to-Air Local Commercial Radio Broadcasting Services in the areas applied for,” BAZ said in a statement.
AB Communications was last month forced to withdraw a third application it had placed for its Highlands FM which had applied to operate in Mutare.
The company was among six firms whose applications were pulled out for reasons ranging from non-payment of the stipulated $7,500 application fees to voluntary withdrawal.
Meanwhile, Zimpapers’ Diamond FM is among the five prospective broadcasters who will appear before BAZ. Diamond FM has been slotted for Mutare’s African Sun Amber hotel August 26. ZimPapers already owns StarFM, which was issued with  anational broadcasting licence together with ZiFM.
The other prospective broadcasters who have been slotted for public hearings are Ray of Hope’s Ya FM in Zvishavane, August 20, and Kingstones Holdings’ Nyami Nyami FM August 29.
BAZ said: “Notice is hereby given in terms of Section 40A of the Broadcasting Services Act (Chapter 12:06) to those who wish to attend the public inquiries of the dates, times and venues for the public inquiries to be conducted in the areas of Masvingo, Zvishavane, Gweru, Mutare and Kariba.”
The broadcasting regulator further promised to announce dates for the remaining seven public inquiries “in due course”.
The commencement of the eagerly awaited public hearings is some relief to those clamouring for a break in the state monopoly of the airwaves.
The granting of national broadcasting licences to Star FM and ZiFM in 2012 did little however to convince critics that government was ready to open up the country’s closely guarded airwaves to private players as the two have strong links to the establishment.Advertisement

Players have condemned government’s continued delay in licencing new players.
Zenzele Ndebele, production manager with the Bulawayo-based Radio Dialogue said last month that government’s reluctance to licence both commercial and community radio stations was deliberate.
“The list of those shortlisted to get licences shows that the government will issue licences to those aligned to them like Supa Mandiwanzira and the ZimPapers radio,” Zenzele said.
Ndebele was briefing guests during the Yearly Radio Day commemorations at the University of South Africa’s Witwatersrand.