Government is worried by the failure by seven commercial radio stations licensed last year to start broadcasting, Secretary for Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Mr George Charamba has said.
The Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe licensed eight commercial radio stations: FAYA FM, Hevoi, Breeze FM, Skyz Metro FM, KE100.4 FM, Nyaminyami FM, YA FM and Diamond FM.
Only YA FM in Zvishavane has started operating.
Speaking in Bulawayo yesterday, Mr Charamba said there was a real risk that some of the licence winners would fail to go live.
“Speaking from a policy point of view, I’m getting worried. The accent in the debate of broadcasting liberalisation has been in breaking the jinx of monopoly which means in licensing. Maybe recklessly we were driven by guilt not by calculation, so we went on a licensing spree. Licence station A, station B and station C. Now we’ve more licences than we have stations. I don’t licence to fail, I licence to ensure that there’s sustainable service provision for Zimbabweans,” he said.
He said some stations were struggling and the Government would go back to the drawing board to find solutions to the problems.
“When you see more than one failure, each suggesting a trend, you go back to the drawing board and say, is it the broadcaster who’s failing or it’s the way we’ve structured our industry which is not sustainable?”
He said the changes to policy would be done to help sustain the sector and service provision by the radio stations.
“I think a responsible manager of a sector must ensure changes take place at a pace which is reasonable, which is realistic.
“More importantly, you must make sure the players in the industry are man enough to be equal to the market available, lest there’s what is termed ruinous competition, where everyone is in to the detriment of everyone. Once you do that, you’ve undermined the concept of sustainability which is the hallmark of policy making,” said Charamba.
With the shrinking advertising revenue due to the downward turn of the economy, the viability of radio stations was threatened, he added.
“When the economy is not on the upward trend it means the budget for advertising is correspondingly shrinking. More importantly, if a company is put into a corner the one budget which is very easy to slash is one for advertising. So you’ve shrinking economic activity,a shrinking advertising budget and within that shrinkage a reassignment of monies which were initially allocated for advertising and you’ve 10 stations battling for that dwindling cake, you can’t succeed,” he said.