Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (Zacras) has urged local radio stations to do away with “playing it safe” policy as it hinders the free flow of information.
In a statement to celebrate this year`s World Radio Day, Zacras National Coordinator Vivian Marara said radio stations ought to report objectively on issues that affect people.
World Radio Day is celebrated annually on February 13.
This year`s theme is, “Dialogue, Tolerance and Peace”.
“As we commemorate World radio day we urge radio stations do desist from the syndrome of “playing it safe” as this ends up in important issues which need to be discussed being ignored,” said Marara.
“Most of the editorial policies for radio stations are crafted in a way that hinders freedom in terms of content aired. Most of the radio stations fear breaking regulations of the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe”.
She said radio stations need to understand their primary role is to spread information of what is happening if they do not adapt and adopt the concept they may lose popularity to social media.
“People now tend to rely on social media to get accurate information on issues that affect them. This places radio stations in a critical position such that if they do not adapt and adopt the concept of factual reporting they will end up shutting down. Radio stations should not evade on important issues in fear of breaking regulations but should ensure they report on issues objectively,” said Marara.
She decried lack of diversity, citing that radio stations tend to report on the same issues throughout.
Marara said there is a need for radio stations to de-eliticise and provide content that is relevant to community peculiarities.
“Radio stations are profit oriented and as such, they overlook specific community needs. There are the elderly who need specific programs so if all content suits only the elite then there won’t be a need for them to listen.”
Marara commended co-operation from the government in acknowledging the need for setting up community radio stations so as to enable people in remote areas to have access to information.
“For many years we have been lobbying for the licensing of community radio stations. There has been a positive response from the government as they have engaged us in law-making decisions and there has been confirmation that there will be ten more community radio stations to be licensed. However we would appreciate if they (government) would give us a specific timeline so we can plan accordingly,” she said.
She added, “We also hope they will increase the number from ten as there are many disadvantaged areas. For example, Bulilima relies on Botswana radio stations to access information because of lack of frequencies. We made this case known to the government and we hope they will attend to this quickly.”
In 2015, the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) issued licences to regional commercial radio stations although the government is yet to licence community radio stations.