Since Zimbabwe’s independence, the country has only one TV station, ZBC TV. The most the country has ever had was two. The second was Joy TV. However, following allegations of non-renewal of the contract with the national broadcaster, Joy TV went off air. According to the Information Minister, Monica Mutsvangwa, that will change before the end of 2019.
This is not the first time that a top government figure will be hinting on more TV stations. Sometime in March this year, Energy Mutodi, the Deputy Minister of Information Publicity and Broadcasting Services, informed parliament that the government had initiated a sustainable digitization program. Consequently, the initiative will bring on board five new TV stations. Mutodi said,
“So far, a significant amount of work has already been covered as TV stations have already been licensed by the Zimbabwe Media Commission. We are just waiting [for] the completion of the digitalization program for them to kick-start their work.”
Reaffirming the coming on board of more TV stations
Mutsvangwa appeared before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Information, Media and Broadcasting Services last week. However, the Minister was in the company of the management of the State broadcaster, ZBC. During the meeting, the minister reaffirmed the coming on board of more TV stations.
“We want our people to be able to watch their favorite programs, such as sports. [However] we are hoping that it will be possible within this year to actually issue six new televisions. We will not be discriminating anyone who will apply for TV licenses as a Ministry. [Consequently] we will be happy to see that there is a variety of TV stations. [However], through BAZ (the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe) we will ensure that we promote a wide range of broadcasting services to the people of Zimbabwe.”
Delivery of campaign promise?
For many years, Zimbabwe’s government has turned down demands to liberalize the country’s airways. Critics argue it is a way of keeping government’s dishonesty secret. However, during last year’s presidential campaign, Emmerson Mnangagwa promised to open up the democratic space for more divergent views. Inasmuch as the move is commendable, there are still lots of questions begging for answers.
One of the fears of the committee was how to ensure transparency in issuing a broadcasting license in the absence of the BAZ board. Consequently, it was also revealed that the government was planning to take up the majority of the new TV stations. Reacting to this, Mutsvangwa said,
“If there are any other applications for TV licenses they will be considered. We have room to move to up to 12 TV channels. We are also working very hard to make sure that BAZ licenses several partners so that we give a variety to our people.”