As a deadline for the application for commercial radio licenses passed this week, community radio stations said it is now their turn to benefit from the government gesture to liberalize the airwaves.
The Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ), which invited applications for commercial radio licenses in October last year, announced that by the closure of business on Wednesday it had received 21 out of the 25 advertised applications.
A statement from BAZ said it received applications from Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Masvingo, Mutare, Lupane, Victoria Falls, Zvishavane and Bindura with Harare and Bulawayo having the highest applicants at six and five each.
The Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations welcomed the development but seized the moment to say it was now their turn and urged its members to push the government to extend the gesture to their sector.
Chairman of the association, Gift Mambipiri, told SW Radio Africa that in their earlier engagements with the government this year they were made to understand that the community radio stations would be the next after the commercial sector.
He said: “I think this is our time. But I don’t think the government would willingly open the space for us; I honestly believe that the space will be provided to us based on our capacity to demand those licenses and we will do whatever we can to demand that space.”
Mambipiri said already they had worrying information that out of the six groups that applied in Harare, the government wants to license only one commercial radio station.
These developments come a month after the Catholic Church launched Radio Chiedza in Harare. If granted the license Radio Chiedza will broadcast community-based stories for greater Harare.
Radio Chiedza joined more than 20 community initiatives, six of which have studios already established, waiting only for the government to open up the space for them.
At the launch of Radio Chiedza, Archibishop of the Catholic Church in Harare, Reverend Robert Ndlovu, blamed the government’s obsession with media control for lack of diversity in the media.
Regionally, Zimbabwe is lagging behind in the liberalization of airwaves with countries like South Africa and Zambia already way ahead. South Africa has got nearly 120 community radio stations while Zambia had its first in 1994.