The Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) has said that it will not be lenient with commercial radio stations that acquired broadcasting licences early last year if they fail to meet the stipulated September deadline to commence operations.
Fifteen months after eight local commercial radio stations were issued with broadcasting service licences, only Zimpapers-owned Diamond FM in Mutare and Ray of Hope trading as YA FM in Zvishavane have started business.
It remains to be seen if the other six stations will be able to beat the statutory set time for commencing business with less than three months remaining.
Most of the licence holders have been set back by the prevailing liquidity squeeze. The equipment required to set up the studios is yet to arrive in the country and in worst cases, it is yet to be ordered from the suppliers.
Much of the equipment is being imported from Europe with France and Germany being the lead suppliers.
BAZ chief executive, Obert Muganyura highlighted that the authority will not hesitate to pull the plug on stations that fail to meet the deadline.
“It’s a statutory requirement that they need to meet. The 18 months will lapse in September and those that fail to meet the deadline run a serious risk of having their licences cancelled. The regulation requires that the licence be cancelled upon the lapsing of the deadline,” said the BAZ top official.
However, Muganyura added that he is in touch with the stations and most of them are working flat out to meet the cut-off date.
“According to our records, it is only the Mutare and Zvishavane-based stations that have officially opened for business. The good thing though is that the other stations are making every effort to ensure they start operations within the statutory 18 months,” he said.
“Gweru and Masvingo stations told us that their equipment is on the way and we hope it gets here on time. We will also be talking to the other stations to assess progress so that I get a proper update on developments.”
Apart from the aforesaid stations, BAZ also licenced Fairtalk Communications’ two stations. Breeze FM will broadcast in Victoria Falls while Skyz Metro FM will broadcast in Bulawayo.
Also on the list is Kingstons’ two radio stations – KE100.4 FM and Nyaminyami FM which will be broadcasting in Harare and Kariba respectively.
AB Communications’ Gogogoi FM and FAYA FM will be broadcasting in Masvingo and Gweru respectively.
When contacted last week, officials from some of the stations were reluctant to shed light on the progress they have made thus far.
The general assumption is either they have little or no positive news to share or they have simply chosen to remain tight-lipped as a market strategy.
AB Communications chief executive, Susan Makore, who said she was out of the county, simply said the establishment will comply with the law.
“They (BAZ) are our regulators and whatever they say or decide goes. We cannot challenge them,” she said.
Famed arts practitioner, Cont Mhlanga who has links to Skyz Metro FM, was evasive.
The firebrand artiste could not divulge details pertaining to the station’s launch date and or progress made thus far. Instead, he referred all questions to the station’s chief executive, Dr Qhubani Moyo, whose mobile phone was not reachable.
Initially, the Bulawayo-based station, Skyz Metro FM, targeted to go on air before the end of 2015.
“I think if you talk to the chief executive (Moyo) you will get better answers. He is the best person to answer every question that you have,” said Mhlanga.
The eight stations were chosen after BAZ invited applications for the provision of local commercial radio broadcasting in 25 areas of the county and received 21 applicants for only nine areas. Out of the 21 applicants, 18 were shortlisted while the other three failed to meet the qualification criteria in terms of the Broadcasting Services Act.
Of the 18 shortlisted applicants, five failed to pay the statutory public inquiry fees while one applicant withdrew from the process.
If they all meet the deadline, the eight licences will be in addition to the two commercial broadcasting licences that were recently granted to AB Communications’ ZiFM and Zimpapers’ Star FM.
Meanwhile, the BAZ chief executive said imminent completion of the digitalisation process will result in new television broadcasting licences being issued.
“We are currently held back by the ongoing digitalisation programme. Once it’s done we are going to open up. Television licences will be issued since the platform will now be allowing for such developments,” said Muganyura