THE LONG-AWAITED public hearings into the only available Bulawayo commercial radio licence on offer has come and gone.
There is no doubt that the mere convening of the hearings herald a new era in the media industry of this country.
Since the liberalisation of the airwaves began, Zimbabwe has seen the establishments of two national commercial radio stations that so far look quite successful.
Zimbabwe has six radio stations, four owned by the State while the other two StarFM and ZiFM belong to the State-owned Zimpapers and AB Communications, which is linked to Information, Media and Broadcasting Services deputy minister Supa Mandiwanzira, respectively.
The Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) is now conducting hearings into licences that would be confined to towns such as Bulawayo, Harare, Victoria Falls, Lupane, Gweru, Zvishavane, Masvingo and Mutare, among other urban areas.
For the Bulawayo licence, Fair Talk Communications (Pvt) Ltd, trading as Skyz Metro FM and Skies Radio (Pvt) Ltd, trading as Skies FM, Carryslot (Pvt) Ltd, trading as Skyz FM made presentations and were grilled by BAZ commissioners as well as members of the public.
Besides technical issues that had to deal with the preparedness of the prospective radio station owners and their financial plans, the members of the public wanted to know how the station would preserve local culture.
They also wanted to know how the prospective radio station would promote the development of Bulawayo.
However, the line of questioning demonstrated that BAZ has a lot of work to do in educating Zimbabweans about the types of radio licences that are on offer.
The majority of the questions seemed to be related to community radios that are not driven by profit and have certain obligations.
Commercial radio stations are by nature profit-driven while community radios specifically serve geographic areas and communities of interest.
The seemingly personal attacks against renowned Bulawayo playwright Cont Mhlanga on Tuesday were also another indicator for the need for public education on the purpose of the hearings.
Otherwise the mere fact that the hearings were held was a milestone in itself that has to be celebrated.