INFORMATION, Media and Broadcasting Services minister Jonathan Moyo made the biggest hint the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) monopoly in television will be coming to an end soon.
Moyo told a meeting of senior editors and managers of media organisations operating in the country that “very, very, very soon, ZTV will not be the only station.”
The former Tsholotsho North MP said Zimbabwe was aiming at digitalising its broadcasting industry by 2018. This would open space for more television stations.
“We have a goal to achieve total digitalisation,” Moyo said. “Very soon ZBC will not be the only television station. More television stations are coming sooner than you think.”
ZBC has been the country’s sole television broadcaster since independence.
ZBC has been accused of poor programming in the past and excluding voices deemed critical of Zanu PF.
On Friday, independent film producers complained that they were sidelined by the only television broadcaster in the country.
George Charamba, the permanent secretary in Moyo’s ministry told independent producers who complained of poor treatment at the hands of ZBC not to worry because more platforms would become available to them.
Media Institute for Southern Africa director Nhlanhla Ngwenya welcomed Moyo’s promise, expressing hope that the opening up of airwaves would be extended to community radio stations too.
“We hope that it won’t be fractional opening of airwaves like they did in 2011, which is insufficient in providing plurality in the media,” he said.
“We hope that the ‘soon’ they mentioned is soon in the strictest sense of the term and by December we would see an invitation for applications for television broadcasting licences and also extension of calls for community radio stations.”
Ngwenya said it was sad that Zimbabwe was one of first countries to open up broadcasting services, but there had only been one television station since independence.
“We hope that the application and selection process will not be shrouded in controversy as the one in 2011. We want independence of the stations and not those that will serve to be extensions of certain organisations,” he said.
The Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) in 2011 awarded two commercial radio licenses to Zimpapers’ StarFM and deputy Information minister Supa Mandiwanzira’s ZiFM.
Critics said the move showed that BAZ was not sincere in opening up the airwaves since the two stations had links to Zanu PF supporters and institutions.
ZBC has of late come under a barrage of criticism over deteriorating standards.
But the State broadcaster has blamed all its problems, including the delay of bulletins, on the inclusive government, saying it had been chronically underfunded during the Global Political Agreement era, as the corporation sought to ward off a wave of criticism.
In a statement early this month, ZBC spokesman Sivukile Simango, in response to media criticism, said ZBC had run without government funding and this had compromised quality.