Broadcasting Services Act
Fact Sheet Seven:
Limitations on programme content
The most problematic sections in the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA) (2001) relate to the
restrictions on the programme content of potential private broadcasters.
The restrictions include local content quotas and the requirement that all broadcasters must
make one hour available to the government “to explain its policies” to the people. Failure to
adhere to any of these restrictions can lead to the suspension, or worse, cancellation of
This section looks at some of these restrictions and argues that they are inherently
unconstitutional as they give the government undue influence over what private broadcasters
may wish to transmit.
One hour per week to be set aside for the government:
In terms of Section 11(5) of the BSA, all broadcasters are “obliged to make one hour
cumulatively per week available, at its request, to the government to explain its policies”. This
is clearly not justifiable in country that professes to be a democracy! Why should the
government have greater rights in explaining its policies over, say, other opposition parties
and interests groups such as labour unions, civil society organisations, etc.?
The requirement that the one hour per week is cumulative implies that should the government
not utilise its ‘rightful’ one hour per week for the next five weeks, an affected broadcaster will
effectively be ‘owing’ the government a total of five hours of free broadcasting airtime!
In addition, this requirement means that the government has a right to change the editorial
content of any broadcaster. For instance, if one is operating a subscription satellite service
which only broadcasts sports and movies, they will be forced to flight political news in the form
of government broadcasts to accommodate the government’s requirements.
This requirement constitutes an unreasonable interference with a broadcaster’s right to
broadcast freely as well as the listener’s rights to tune into a station of their choice.
It is, in effect, an infringement on citizens’ fundamental rights to seek, receive and impart
information through the media of their choice, and thus falls foul of Section 20(1) of the
Constitution of Zimbabwe. Section 20(2) of the Constitution only grants the government the
right to interfere with individual’s right to free expression only if these rights are a threat
against public safety, health, morality, or the economic interests of the state.
Clearly, the proposed interference cannot be justifiable under any of these categories.
Further, the Minister of Information is granted the power to “impose any programme standard,
which in his [sic] opinion will provide appropriate community safeguards” (section 25). (This
section gives the Minister wide and discretionary influence and is another abridgement of the
freedom of expression guaranteed by the Zimbabwean Constitution.
Any restriction on freedom of expression must fall within the limitations outlined in the
Constitution (Section 20(2)) or must be worded in such a clear and precise manner that
individuals will be clear on how to conduct their actions. The section states that the Minister


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