Zimbabwe’s Parliament has recommended that the government provide security comprising police and soldiers to all private commercial radio stations because this is of national interest.
Parliament noted that most of the private radio stations, except for SkyFM had no security yet radio stations had the potential to cause chaos in the country like the genocide in Rwanda which was sparked off by a radio broadcast.
Although the report of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Media, Information and Broadcasting Services was presented yesterday it wanted the government to implement its recommendations by 31 March 2018.
It said licences for the existing radio stations should be revised so that they cover entire provinces, instead of the current 40km radius, and broadcast in all languages spoken in the province.
The Committee deliberated and made the following observations;
1. The Committee noted that most of the radio stations except for SkyFM in Bulawayo, had no proper security. The Committee reiterate the importance of state security, since the Rwanda genocide was initiated by radio stations. Although SKYFM had state security in the form of ZRP, the Committee was concerned that the arrangement was on commercial basis and may not take into consideration the national interests of the State.
2. All the radio stations were facing high costs of establishing a broadcasting center coupled with insufficient foreign currency. This also contributed to their incapacity to fully broadcast within the required timeframe (18 months) after issuance of a license.
3. The Committee noted that the requirement that the local commercial radio stations should broadcast within a 40km radius was detrimental to the operations of radio stations. CAPITALK in Harare targets 3.5 million people, whilst those outside Harare fall short of a meaningful target to attract advertisers.
4. The Committee observed that most of the radio stations were housed in buildings that are not friendly to the people living with disability.
5. Although most radio stations were broadcasting in languages that are spoken in their provinces respectively, the Committee noted that SKYFM was not broadcasting in Tonga. The Committee was satisfied with the operations of SKYFM who are already making profits and are able to subsidize their sister company (BREEZEFM) in Victoria Falls.
6. BAZ should consider installing gap fillers transmitter sites in areas that are not receiving transmission adequately.
7. The local commercial radio stations are well installed with state of the art digitally compliant equipment.
The Committee recommends the following;
1. That local Commercial Radio Stations must be properly secured with state security comprising soldiers and police by March 2018.
2. The Ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services before 31st March 2018 should engage the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, on behalf of the radio stations to ensure that they are prioritized in foreign currency allocations.
3. The local commercial radio stations licences by 31st March 2018 should be upgraded to provincial commercial radio stations that broadcast throughout their respective provinces to expand their market base as well to cover some of the areas that do not have transmission.
4. The Ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services should intervene on behalf of radio stations to ensure that they are allocated prime land where they can build their own buildings before 31st March 2018.
5. That local commercial radio stations should strive to broadcast in all the languages that are spoken in a particular province by 31st March 2018.
6. BAZ should re-advertise in the other areas that previously failed to secure licence as there could be others who are interested in registering commercial radio stations. This should be done by 31st March 2018. Thank you Madam Speaker.