has the power to impose “any” standards he/she may choose and this will be dependent on
“his [sic] opinion”. This is obviously open to abuse and selective application.
If the power of the Minister to control programme content was restricted to situations of gross
abuse of licences such as hate speech or direct incitement to racial or ethnic violence, the
restrictions may well be considered reasonable. However, the ministerial discretion is so wide
as to cover any possible situation, which the Minister may decide to prescribe. This therefore
renders his/her powers unconstitutional.
Section 39 and the Fifth Schedule (Part III) of the Act also state that:
“if there is an event which in the Minister’s discretion constitutes a major accident, natural
disaster, epidemic, civil unrest or public disorder or war and there is a declaration to this effect
by the Minister, a licensee shall provide his [sic] facilities to anyone to communicate an
emergency free of charge… in addition a licensee is obliged as a public service to provide
sufficient coverage of national events.”
And: Further, by simply publishing a notice in the Gazette, the Minister becomes entitled to
broadcast free of charge on a commercial broadcast “such items of national interest as are
specified in the notice.
Commercial broadcasting exists to make profit, thus, every single second of broadcast time
counts for money. If the government wants to broadcast anything, it has access to four state
radio channels and one state television channel, so why should it legislate that it can use a
private broadcaster’s resources to broadcast “national events” or “national interest” items
gratis becomes difficult to understand!
If the government wants to utilise the airtime of a private broadcaster, it must pay like any
other client for that service as is common practice in most democracies. Besides, what
constitutes a “national interest” item? The Minister in his/her sole discretion determines the
answer to this question.
For community broadcasters, there is a prohibition against broadcasting material of a “political
matter” (Fifth Schedule, Part IV). “Political matter” is loosely defined as “including the policy
launch of a political party.” Without a universally agreed legal definition of what a “political
matter” is, this clause exposes all community broadcasters to the caprices and whims of the
Minister of Information, who has the discretionary power to determine what is political and
what is not political.
This means that community broadcasters are in fact gagged even before they go on air in
direct contravention of the individuals’ rights to freely express themselves as guaranteed
under Section 20 (1) of the Constitution.
Mandatory local content requirements:
In order to promote and protect their local arts industries, most countries the world over
prescribe mandatory local content requirements in broadcasting. Zimbabwe is not an
exception in this regard.
Local content quotas help to promote local languages, culture and national identities in an era
where Western domination of the global arts industry threatens to render smaller cultures and
languages extinct. However, the local content quotas stipulated under Zimbabwean law are, if
not ridiculous for a country that has such a poor arts industry, prohibitive to say the least. In
the Sixth Schedule of the BSA, 75% of all broadcast content is supposed to be of local origin
(section 11(3) and (4)).
According to the Sixth Schedule, all television broadcasters are required to have 75% local or
African programming (Clause 2(1)), of which 70% or more of its drama, current affairs, social
documentary, informal knowledge building, educational and children’s programming must be
from a Zimbabwean source (Clause 2(3)).


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