Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter
GOVERNMENT will do away with pirate radio stations through opening up airwaves, a situation that would render them redundant, Parliament heard yesterday. Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Deputy Minister Supa Mandiwanzira told Senate that people were made to listen to pirate radio stations because of the failure by Transmedia to provide signal of legitimate radio and television broadcasting content throughout the country.
He was responding to a question from Mashonaland Central Senator Alice Chimbudzi (Zanu-PF) on what Government was doing to deal with private radio stations.
“The Ministry considers these pirate radio stations as a nuisance that we must get rid of,” said Deputy Minister Mandiwanzira.
“In the majority of cases the Zimbabweans who listen to these pirate radio stations do so out of desperation because they are unable to get a signal of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation in the area they stay.
“So they have no choice and end up, by default, listening to these pirate radio stations.” The radio stations, said Deputy Minister Mandiwanzira, had failed to achieve their regime change agenda following the resounding election victory by Zanu-PF in the harmonised election on July 31, 2013.
He said his Ministry had a fresh impetus to roll out transmitters through Transmedia across the country to enable everyone to get signal of ZBC radio and television and other legitimate broadcasting institutions.
The roll out would be achieved through digitalisation of Transmedia from analogue, a project that he said required US$30 million to cover the whole country.
He said another way of dealing with pirate radio stations was to open up the airwaves, a situation he said started two years ago by licensing ZiFM and Star FM radio stations.
“The Ministry has started the process of opening up the broadcasting industry to other players. Very shortly the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe will be calling for application to license other radio stations,” he said.
“In addition the Ministry is also consulting with a view to license community radio stations in the not too distant future. So we believe as a Ministry that once we address the issue of transmission, once we address the issue of choice, where you have multiple choice we will render the pirate radio stations irrelevant.”
Responding to another question, Deputy Minister Mandiwanzira said payment of ZBC licenses had nothing to do with the content but possession of a signal receiving gadget. Bulawayo Metropolitan Senator, Siphiwe Ncube (MDC-T) had asked what Government policy was regarding ZBC licence considering that it was also on Dstv channel where it is being paid. The Deputy Minister said there was a misconception from some people who think that they were being levied to pay for what they see yet it was about owning a receiver.
“There is no relationship between licence fee and content. ZBC, according to the law, is a collection agent, you are not paying for the quality,” he said. Deputy Mininister Mandiwanzira said no wonder why ZBC inspectors were seen even in areas where there was no ZBC reception.
Responding to another question, the Deputy Minister re-affirmed the requirement by broadcasting stations to play 75 percent local content.
He said the 75 percent requirement was also an empowerment tool for local artists.