Bulawayo waits little longer for radio station


So just when everybody was excited about getting a new radio station for Bulawayo and surrounding areas, we woke up to news that the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) wrote a letter to Skies FM, Skyz Metro and Skyz FM informing them the public hearings scheduled for July had been postponed for undisclosed reasons.

This of course is a set-back because the temperature speaks for itself. It’s high time Bulawayo had its own community radio station. One is better than none.

I do not know who came up with names for these prospective stations, but the coincidence is interesting. How did they all end up with Skies, but in spelling variations? What’s in a name anyway?

Bulawayo and surrounding areas look forward to having a new station and may those with powers vested upon them to grant the people this wish kindly do so. To start with we hope the licence is given to a well deserving applicant. The question is what should the deserving applicant offer?

To start with the new radio station needs to be driven by the people it serves. We are hoping for a radio station that will understand the community it serves and answer to their demands. I always view a radio station in the same way I view a local Member of Parliament, especially when it claims to be a community radio station.

The radio station should serve the interest of the community in Bulawayo and surrounding areas and continuously engage it in nurturing its programmes, otherwise soon enough we shall be calling for another station.

The freedom to have a station in Bulawayo has not come easy, it’s been like Mandela’s long walk to freedom, so when that opportunity finally arrives, let us utilise it to the fullest.

Artistes from the region have complained that they do not get enough airplay on existing radio stations and platforms and I expect the new station to correct that anomaly. We must be careful that we do not have a radio station that simply duplicates others.

The station needs to create its own unique identity and yet play a balanced role without alienating the region from the country. I believe the greatest fear of politicians has always been that if the airwaves are free they risk loose cannon stations that will politicise and turn communities into anarchies and rebels within the country.

I am hoping for a radio station that does not end up as a broadcasting political station, but give us balanced news and entertainment that is not biased but fair and critical.

Bulawayo’s entertainment scene is complex because there is heavy influence of South African music and entertainment in our community.

The easy way to woo listeners would be to just play those songs that are trending in South Africa and create jingles with the artistes when they visit the country. There is nothing wrong with being populist, but I hope the station could help empower our own local music, dramas, socialites and artistes.

I respect a radio station that takes an unknown, less published and publicised artiste or song and drives them to success and achievement.

That is called trendsetting rather than trend following. I hope we are not going to licence a Zimbabwe version of South African stations like Ukhozi FM, Metro FM and YFM, among others.

Language is also crucial. For a Bulawayo station we hope all local languages will be catered for in particular Ndebele. We hope we have a station that takes pride in our language and engages presenters who not only speak the language, but correctly.

It should be the end of news, statements and words that are directly translated from other languages. We have a rich source of language experts to draw from. Ndebele is not Zulu and neither is it a translation from other languages.

The radio presenter of today wants to sound like a DJ they heard before. They all want to sound sophisticated, they want to speak through the nose and to speak like American presenters.

Travelling as I do, I have not heard Austrian or Swedish presenters who attempt to sound foreign. I look forward to a new breed of presenter who speaks in an original manner and sounds like the community he broadcasts to.

I understand that those behind these radio stations are let down by the postponements, but they must not rest on their laurels. They must keep on the campaign to encourage Bulawayo citizens to support the hearings and prepare their presentations well.

See this grace period as a blessing to reinforce preparations and when the time comes both the radio stations and the people should come out in full force and convincing numbers and make an obvious undisputable statement that Bulawayo and surrounding areas are ready for their own radio station.

It’s now or never.

Keep walking.