Government has set an undisclosed budget for the setting up of 10 “community radio stations” which should be running by year end, but experts are not amused with the government’s role in the exercise arguing that the move will compromise the independence of the stations.
This comes at a time the government has been under unrelenting pressure from various international groups and media stakeholders calling for the opening up of media space in the country.
Speaking at an Amnesty International stakeholders Conference today, member of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Media, Settlement Chikwanya said the government is finally yielding to calls for media plurality and diversity.
“Through pressure for the setting up of community radio stations, the government has now set up a budget for the establishment of 10 community radio stations, the budget for that has been set aside and by end of this year we shall definitely make sure this is achieved,” Chikwinya said.
However, the bone of contention between the government and media stakeholders has always been on what defines a community radio station.
Experts say the government should only play a facilitation role for communities to be able to set up community radio stations and not finance the radio stations as this will compromise their independence.
Veteran Broadcaster, John Masuku said community radio stations should be formed and run by communities.
“Community radio stations should be for the community, by the community. The moment a radio station is funded by an individual or a company it ceases to be a community radio station. It should have a board constituting of members of the community, be it chiefs, clergymen in the area, headsmen and so on, all being members of that community,” said Masuku.
Lately, the government through the Broadcast Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) issued operating licenses to a few state-owned radio stations such as Diamond FM and Capitalk FM, trying to coax people into believing that it has opened community radio stations.
Critics argue that these stations do not have any semblance of what a community radio station is as they do not speak to the culture and language of various regions they operate in.
Other countries in the region have done tremendously well in this respect, with Zambia having opened 111 community radio stations.
According to community radio stations lobby group, ZACRAS, to date, Zimbabwe has about 20 community radio stations and all are not licensed as BAZ has not issued a call for licenses for over two decades.