A GOVERNMENT minister has declared that Zimbabwe’s broadcasting sector has the capacity to immediately licence 94 radio stations and add four more television stations, writes a journalism.co.za correspondent.

Deputy Minister of Information and Publicity, Jameson Zvidzai Timba, told journalists in a small mining in the  Midlands, Redcliff Town, that the radio and television spectrum  could take 31 urban radio licences and 60 country-related licences.

Timba’s remarks re-enforce the calls by the broader civic society organisations and media stakeholders to open up the airwaves.

Recently, Zimbabwe launched the Public Media Broadcast Report entitled On Air which was written by Dr Sarah Chiumbu, a Zimbabwean who held various media roles in Harare before moving to South Africa where she is now a lecturer at Wits University.

The report is a result of the research that started in 2008 with the aim of collecting, collating and writing up information about regulation, ownership, access, performance as well as the prospects of public  broadcasting reform in Africa.

It has been published by the Open Society Institute (OSI) and the Africa Governance Monitoring and Advocacy Project (AfriMAP), with the facilitation of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Zimbabwe Chapter).

However, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings has dismissed the report and  calls for liberalisation of the airwaves.

Recently its chief executive officer Happison Muchechetere said the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) was doing a good a job and denied that it was biased.

But Minister Timba’s statement further shows the problems with the ZBC  monopoly.

 “If Zimbabwe were to go on a full spectrum today, there is capacity for three ultra-high frequency (UHF) television licences and one very high  frequency (VHF) television licence and what that means is that as we stand  we can have an extra four television stations, that is what the frequency allows,” Timba said.

“We have planned capacity to issue 31 radio licenses in urban areas and a further 60 country-based radio licences while we also have the capacity to also issue two national frequency modulation (FM) radio licences,” Timba said.

The ZBC is the sole broadcaster with one television station and four radio stations.

Prospective broadcasters have either been denied licences or turned down by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) which regulates the broadcasting services industry under the contentious Broadcasting Services Act (BSA).

The agreement which paved way for the formation of a unity government in Zimbabwe calls for reforms both in the broadcasting services sector and the print media.

Several newspapers are waiting on the wings and pin their hopes on the announcement of the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) which is mandated to licence newspapers.