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NCBFZ Response to BAZ Public Consultation Notice

by Agencies
03 Jan 2020 at 18:21hrs | Views
On the 21st of December 2019, the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) issued a Public Consultation Notice wherein it proposed to revise the broadcasting frequency allotment plan in order to accommodate digital television, national radio, provincial radio, community radio, expanded local commercial and campus radio services. This, according to the BAZ is done in order to advance the promotion of access to information, business and respond to the demand for community radio stations. This approach is provided for under the law i.e. Broadcasting Services Act (Chapter 12:06).

Against this background and in the spirit of trying to democratize the broadcasting sub-sector in Zimbabwe, the National Community Broadcasting Forum of Zimbabwe (NCBFZ) wishes to feedback as follows;
Firstly, NCBFZ notes and therefore comments the government of Zimbabwe through BAZ the consultative approach to broadcasting media reform. Our hope is that the process will remain inclusive, participatory and democratic.

Secondly, our view as NCBFZ is that democratizing communication and information access and freedom of expression is in the interest of development and is motivated by both the national development policy Agenda 2030 and objectives of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the principle #LeaveNoOneBehind. It is therefore a very important step in the development of our nation. This is in line with the Zimbabwe is Open for Business mantra which we believe is only possible with open lines of communication and information sharing. No business thrives in an environment where information sharing is curtailed.

Thirdly, we comment the government of Zimbabwe through BAZ for prioritizing the most needy when it comes to information access promotion. When one closely looks at the areas and districts preferred with the allotment plan, communities largely rural and marginalized have been included. Communities like Mbire in Mashonaland central, Binga in Matebeleland North, Gwanda, Malipati and others have surely been excluded in the information access matrix for long. This is commendable.

Fourthly, responding directly to the call for the licensing for community radios which had been going on for over a decade is in our view, a positive development and we believe it confirms what His Excellency President Mnangagwa has been saying that his government is a listening one.

Fifth, while the attempt to balance the requirements for business and community development is noble, we think some of the communities would benefit better if they are allocated community radio frequencies as opposed to business. This is due to the very nature and principles of community broadcasting which places community development as the central agenda as opposed to profit. In this regard, we would encourage BAZ to revisit the plan with this in mind.

Sixth, when it comes to addressing the community radio issues, we think there is need to widen the stakeholder base so that the process does not leave anyone behind and it is as democratic as possible. The community radio issue is not just a media one only; it is a cross-cutting issue which requires views of especially stakeholders who are not necessarily media but development oriented.

Lastly, while we are aware that the principles of community broadcasting are that respective communities own, program and govern the operations of these facilities, some of the communities lack the necessary skills, knowledge and capacities to run and manage these facilities. We as NCBFZ remain available to support the community radio stations through capacity development interventions on various key areas.

In conclusion, we urge the government of Zimbabwe through BAZ to remain committed to the broadcasting and information needs of the people of Zimbabwe especially in rural and marginalized communities where there are limited options to sources of information given the costs for both data bundles and newspapers.

Source - Agencies