BAZ awards TV licences to its ZANU PF proxies

Supa Mandiwanzira's AB Communications application was turned down

HARARE – All the six applicants that have just been licensed for free-to-air television by the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Authority (BAZ) are intrinsically linked to ZANU PF, putting paid to assertions Zimbabwe was freeing the airwaves.
The government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa has tightened its grip on the media instead, analysts contend. “If Zimbabwe is to have a truly independent media, there is need for more players from different backgrounds to be granted licences,” said MISA Zimbabwe in a statement yesterday.
BAZ issued six new free-to-air TV licences yesterday, “breaking a monopoly” that has been enjoyed by the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation since 1980.
Zimbabweans have long called for BAZ to license independent broadcasters, and accuse state-owned media of biased coverage in favour of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ruling Zanu PF party.
But after BAZ announced six winners of the licences on offer from a list of 14 applicants, including a military TV station, media freedom campaigners described the process as a farce.
“While the decision to license more television stations is a welcome development, we are worried at the lack of diversity in the granting of the TV licences,” MISA went on.
“The new TV licence holders either already hold print or radio 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,” it said.
BAZ Chairman Charles Sibanda said among those issued licences was Rusununguko Media (Pvt) Ltd, which is owned by the Ministry of Defence. It will trade as NRTV.
The Daily News, which now has the Minister of State for Harare Oliver Chidawu among its shareholders, was awarded a licence under Jester Media (Pvt) Limited and will trade as 3K TV.
The Zimbabwe Newspapers, which is majority-owned by the government through the Zimbabwe Mass Media Trust and runs the country’s biggest newspapers and several radio stations, was also awarded a licence for its station, Zimpapers Television Network.
Acacia Media Group, owned by ex-Zanu PF Goromonzi South constituency aspirant, Sharon Mugabe, niece to the late Zimbabwean strongman Robert Mugabe and now wife to former deputy information minister Bright Matonga, and Channel Dzimbahwe, which is fronted by former ZBC CEO Happison Muchechetere also won licences. Acacia will trade as Kumba TV while Channel Dzimbahwe will trade as Channel D.
The final licence went to Bulawayo-based Fairtalk Communications, which is in partnership with the military’s Rusununguko in running Skyz Metro FM. Fairtalk shareholders Qhubani Moyo and Cont Mhlanga were at pains trying to distance themselves from the military, saying they had no shareholding in their new TV station, Ke Yona TV.
BAZ delivered a surprise snub to AB Communications, which is owned by Zanu PF’s Nyanga South MP Supa Mandiwanzira, who owns the radio station ZiFM Stereo.
Also overlooked was Heart & Soul TV owned by Trevor Ncube’s Alpha Media Holdings. Ncube has been a strident supporter of President Emmerson Mnangagwa since a 2017 coup that ousted long-time leader Robert Mugabe, support which was rewarded with an appointment as a member of the Presidential Advisory Council.
Sibanda said in a statement the new stations have 18 months to go on air.
“In the event of failure to broadcast, the licences will be availed to other aspirants through a similar process,” he said.
BAZ conducted public hearings last month to choose new broadcasters, but many feel the process was pre-determined.
MISA is worried the same charade will continue as BAZ starts the process of licensing community radio stations. “Only players with links to the government will be granted licences, yet again.”
“MISA Zimbabwe, therefore, calls for the genuine liberalisation of the airwaves, where diversity and pluralism are the guiding principles in the granting of licences,” it said. — Zimbabwe Observer-Zimlive.

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