By Thupeyo Muleya
Government has started working on licensing 40 community radio stations countrywide as it steps up efforts to achieve total broadcasting coverage, an official has said.
Secretary for Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Mr Nick Mangwana said they would start with radio stations that would broadcast in vernacular languages before moving to other categories.
He was speaking in an interview in Beitbridge yesterday, on the sidelines of a community sensitisation meeting on the setting up of such radio stations.
It is understood that the Venda (Beitbridge), Shangani (Chiredzi), Ndau (Chipinge), Kalanga (Plumtree) and Tonga (Binga) will benefit in the first phase.
The permanent secretary, who was accompanied by officials from the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe, said the team had visited the border town at the invitation of Beitbridge East legislator Cde Albert Nguluvhe.
“We have started the sensitisation meetings with people in the respective benefiting communities. Beitbridge is our first port of call and we will be going to Chiredzi and other towns in due course,” said Mr Mangwana.
“However, we can’t set a deadline for issuance of all the 40 licences, but that will be done as soon as possible.
“You will note that the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe will conduct commissions of inquiry to check the eligibility of all those who have applied for licences.”
He added: “This is a process we need to carry out with due diligence so that the licences are issued fairly.”
“As a ministry we have said that BAZ should call for applications, at the very least, three times a year from a policy point of view and then the process is rolled out.
“However, if it was my call, by December all the frequencies that they have will be gone.”
Mr Mangwana said Government would assist the respective communities with the setting up of infrastructure, capacity building, and training.
He said community radio stations were good for the people and that they were development drivers.
“As we seek to address the black spot in broadcasting, we have tasked Transmedia, which is the entity in charge of our transmitters, to look at all gaps and to put in place what we need to move forward.
“It is our understanding that once all that audit and risk copying has been done by Transmedia we should be able to fill black spots and have a total broadcasting coverage.
“This will be put under our 100-day projects so that we implement the recommendations quickly,” said Mr Mangwana.
He added that Government was exploring ways to speed up the digitisation programme which currently stands at 37 percent.
Mr Mangwana said very few countries in the world are at 100 percent and that most of these were at 70 percent and will remain with black spots.