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    Friday, 13 May 2016

    Stakeholders demand transparency on TV licences


    – Media stakeholders who met in Harare three weeks ago have demanded a clear criteria and transparency when Government issues private players with television licences in a process expected to take place before the end of this year.
    This demand was made by delegates who met at an All Stakeholders Indaba hosted by the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) at a Harare hotel.
    The indaba was organised in order for stakeholders to come up with a position paper to be presented at another stakeholders meeting that is expected to be called by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services to discuss media policy soon.
    One of the most contentious issues that came up at the meeting was the lack of transparency and clear criteria that Government is using in issuing both radio and television licences.
    The delegates complained that all radio licences issued a few years ago either went to individuals who are connected to the ruling party Zanu PF or to media organisations that are controlled by the State.
    They said history was bound to repeat itself with the television licences which Government plans to issue after completing the digitalisation process.
     They wondered how Government arrived at the 12 television licences it is planning to issue out and why six of them were being reserved for ZBC. They also questioned how the Government arrived on the six for the private players.
    "The crisis we have, and history is going to judge us harshly is that we are just being told things by Government and there is no opportunity for us to give our input. This is neither good for the development of this country nor for the strengthening of democracy. It is not necessarily the best players who are getting these licences," said one delegate.
    A thematic committee chaired by Rashwit Mkundu, a reknowned media consultant, noted that the State-run Zimbabawe Newspapers 1980 Ltd (Zimpapers) has already hired staff for its proposed television station long before the call for licence applications has been made. Delegates said this showed that the company has inside information and its management is aware that it will get one of the licences.
    Zimpapers which runs a number of publications including The Herald also got a radio licence a few years ago and is now running Star FM radio.
     "It does not help Press Freedom, Freedom of Speech or Democracy to reserve licences for just those connected to the ruling party," said another delegate.
    Zimpapers chief executive officer Pikirai Deketeke confirmed the allegations that his company has hired staff for a new TV station and said the company was treating the project like any other. He said the company wanted to hit the ground running if it gets a licence.
    "This is a project and we are putting in place systems in readiness for the launch of the television station. We are hopeful that we will get a licence and hence the initiative," said Deketeke.
    He said Nomsa Nkala, a former deputy editor with The Sunday Mail has been appointed the head of the station. Nkala said she was already working on content and doing auditions so that the station hits the ground running.
    However, participants at the workshop insisted there is no company that can sign employment contracts for a project that is not there.
    "What will Zimpapers do with all these workers if their bid for a licence flops? Who is going to continue paying for the salaries?" queried a delegate.
    The delegates also expressed concern at the cross ownership of the media in Zimbabwe where moguls are being allowed to own newspapers, radio and television stations.
    "There is immense concentration of media power in a few individuals and this stiffles freedom of expression," noted one speaker.
    The workshop was opened by Misa chairman Kumbirai Mafunda.local news
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