The Broadcasting Association of Zimbabwe (BAZ) granted licences to Jester Media (Pvt) trading as 3KTV, Zimbabwe Newspapers (ZTN), Rusununguko Media (NRTV), Acacia Media Group (KumbaTV), Fairtalk Communications (Ke Yona TV) and Channel Dzimbabwe (Channel D).
Of the successful applicants, one is linked to government through Zimpapers while others have individuals heavily involved in Zanu-PF and the military.
Reacting to the announcement, Media Institute for Southern Africa (Misa) Zimbabwe director Tabani Moyo said the development confirmed that the government was not yet ready to liberalise the airwaves.
"The licensing of the six players is an indication that the government is not yet willing to genuinely liberalise and open up the airwaves in Zimbabwe," Moyo said.
"What we have seen is that this is a consolidation of the ruling elites' voices in the sector under a false pretence that they are opening up the media space to hoodwink the international community."
Moyo added the licensing of the applicants was a "façade" as the licenses were awarded to soldiers and war veterans together with State-linked firms.
"The licences have gone to soldiers, to war veterans, people with close links to government and those who have worked for government institutions or in a way are working closely with the ruling party," he said.
He said the move was "a sad development".
"That is why the government is not eager to finalise the amendment of the Broadcasting Services Act as they prefer to partially open the industry through government executive orders as statutory instruments so that they can protect ruling elites' interests in the industry rather than widely liberalising it."
Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) executive director Loughty Dube said though it was a welcome development, it was highly unlikely that the move would bring the much-needed diversity in the broadcasting sector as most of the "winners" were linked to the ruling elite.
"The opening up of the broadcasting sector is a very welcome development for Zimbabwe. We sincerely hope that licensed broadcasters will be diverse in their approach. We can't have pluralism without diversity. We are likely to have the repetition of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation through six channels," Dube said.
Dube, who is also the deputy chairperson of the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe, said there was need for different independent voices in the sector.
"We need different voices and different opinions reflecting the diversity of Zimbabwe. We want different voices and opinions so that we can have meaningful democracy in the country," he said adding that he was hoping the licensed entities would create jobs.
Alpha Media Holding (AMH)'s Heart and Soul Radio and AB Communications were some of the applicants who were denied licenses by BAZ.
"Today, we learnt that Heart and Soul's bid for a license was not successful.
Naturally, we are disappointed as we feel we were ready to add value to the market. Nevertheless, we welcome the fact that there are more players in the TV segment and remain trusting in time we will be part of the stable," AMH group chief executive officer Kenias Mafukidze said.
"To this end, we sincerely wish all the new licensees the best in their efforts and congratulate them on their success. On our part, we remain committed to delivering professsional factual and objective content to all our clients. We will continue to expand our audience on a daily basis."
In a statement, BAZ board chairman Charles Sibanda said: "The new licences shall have 18 months to roll out their plans and go on air in line with section 11(7) of the Broadcasting Services Act (Chapter 12:06). In the event of failure to broadcast, the licences will be availed to other aspirants through a similar process."
"The Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe would like to express appreciation to all those who showed interest and indeed the general public for actively participating in this historic process of facilitating the opening up of broadcasting airwaves for multiplicity in television services," he said.
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