BROADCASTING Authority of Zimbabwe chief executive, Obert Muganyura was yesterday grilled by Parliament over issuance of Oracle Virtual Directory (OVD) webcast radio and television licences this year at a time when the organisation has no board.
Muganyura had appeared before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Media to speak about the authority’s mandate and transmission challenges faced by the country where he disclosed that BAZ has not had a board since March 2015.
But MPs from the committee said Muganyura, by issuing OVD webcast licences singlehandedly, could have acted illegally.
“We have not had a board since March 2015 and we hope that it is a matter which is going to be addressed urgently in terms of the Corporate Governance Act, because the licencing of community radio stations indeed is something that requires the presence of the board,” Muganyura said.
“Section 10 of the Broadcasting Services Act makes a distinction between services that make use of frequencies – of which the planning of frequencies must be completed before licencing and these go through public inquiry by the board.
“But there are certain licences that do not need to go through public inquiry because they do not use frequencies such as OVD webcast, and in terms of the constitution with these kind of licences it was going to be unfair for us to continue saying we do not have a board and therefore we will not licence them.”
But the committee was not satisfied with his response and they said they will seek legal advice from Counsel to Parliament, Gladys Pise on whether the law exempts the BAZ board from licencing certain classes of radio licences.
The committee also said it will summon the Minister of Information, Monica Mutsvangwa to further explain the issue.
On community radio stations, Muganyura said when they were licenced, the BAZ board was still in place.
He said eight community radio stations were licenced, and an additional two operated by State broadcaster ZBC, Khulumani FM in Bulawayo and Central FM in Gweru.
Mbizo MP Settlement Chikwinya then asked Muganyura to explain what action BAZ as a regulator took on ZBC when they transmitted defamatory messages that the condition of albinism was a result of witchcraft. Chikwinya said section 3 (k) of the Broadcasting Services Act required that there must be preservation of value in everything aired.
“We did pick up that issue and strongly felt that it violated the provisions of the Act. We have written to ZBC to explain why they allowed that. However, we are handicapped in terms of penalties and we want a review of the Broadcasting Services Act to include monetary penalties because they are stiffer and prohibitive.
“The other action is to suspend the services of the broadcaster. ZBC could have just apologised to the nation,” Muganyura said.
He said BAZ was experiencing challenges in low power outage of some digital transmission sites, as well as spares for analogue transmission equipment which was now outdated.
MPs alleged that BAZ had purchased the wrong equipment for digitisation resulting in completion of only 1% more work even after they were given an additional $16 million to complete digitisation.
Muganyura denied that wrong equipment was purchased, preferring to say that instead it was transmission equipment bought 20 years ago which had low power off one kilowatt instead of five kilowatts. He said it was bought by Transmedia.