(MISA/IFEX) - The "Financial Gazette" newspaper reports that the government is planning to formulate tough rules and regulations for aspiring broadcasters. The regulations are expected to be gazetted into law by President Robert Mugabe on 29 September 2000, under the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act.
Under the regulations, only companies owned by Zimbabweans would be allowed to enter the country's broadcasting industry and operators could be jailed for criticising the presidency. New broadcasting companies would be barred from taking on board foreign companies as technical partners or minority investors.
After the landmark Supreme Court ruling on 22 September, which nullified Sections 27 and 28 of the Broadcasting Act, the government responded by saying it would comply with the ruling and had already started drawing up regulatory mechanisms. According to the "Financial Gazette" sources, a broadcasting regulatory board would be set up to grant broadcasting licences to deserving applications. However, a broadcasting licence will not on its own guarantee an applicant the right to run a broadcasting station. Applicants would need to get a further radio or television station operating licence from the Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory Board (PTCB). The PTCB will start granting licences from January 2001, meaning that prospective broadcasters will not be able to run a broadcasting service until then.
Minister of Information and Publicity Jonathan Moyo told the "Financial Gazette" that his department was busy working on a set of regulations that would ensure that Zimbabwe's airwaves did not become a free-for-all, but denied that the regulations were inhibiting. He said the new regulations were stringent, but were meant to ensure that any new entrants in the broadcasting sector would operate in accordance with Zimbabwe's national interests and the provision of the constitution.
On 22 September, the Supreme Court declared that the monopoly on broadcasting services created by Section 27 of the Broadcasting Act was inconsistent with Section 20 of the Constitution. The ruling also declared that Section 14 of the Radio Communication Services Act was inconsistent with Section 20 of the Constitution, and therefore, invalid in so far as they prohibited any person, other than the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, from possessing or operating a radio station for the purpose of carrying on a broadcasting service in Zimbabwe.