Community Radio: A Lifeline For Creatives and A Boon For Pluralism

The issuing of licences to community radio stations comes in as a great equaliser. We have said before that the Zimbabwean story has been continuously told from a single story narrative perspective and this is unhealthy, writes Thabani H. Moyo.

Several months ago, the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) announced the awarding of community radio licences, a major milestone in the broadcasting sector with far-reaching implications to the arts industry.

In the region, Ntepe- Manana Community Radio Trust and Mbembesi Development Trust, trading as Ingqanga FM got licenced. The issuing of these licences has been greeted with excitement across communities in the region.

The development has been long overdue. For a long time, Zimbabwe has been presented as a mono-cultural society because of its reliance on National Radio Stations that have bias towards the Shona culture.

These stations were not enough for a multicultural society like Zimbabwe. There were outcries that Matabeleland cultures were not well represented when it comes to programming on these national radio stations.

The issuing of licences to community radio stations comes in as a great equaliser.

We have said before that Zimbabwean story has been continuously told from a single perspective and this has been unhealthy. The situation lacked pluralism and diversity.

With new community radio stations the marginalised communities of Matabeleland now have platforms where they can access information in their own languages. These radio stations have an important mandate of forming positive attitudes towards different ethnic groups and cultures in the Matabeleland region.

By their very nature worldwide, community radio stations are expected to usher in pluralism and cultural diversity which are basic values of public communication.

Community radio stations must take advantage of the fact that radio has mass information distribution opportunities. Different streams of opinions that will be provided by these community radio stations will have to cultivate a culture of tolerance towards divergent views. The listenership appetites and needs are as varied as the languages and cultures that are there.

Communities will now be able to get current information and address social issues affecting them through the radio platforms. We expect variety in programming! We expect variety in genres of programs! We expect different and well-informed standpoints! We further expect the new community radio stations to be independent and avoid manipulation by powerful members of the community and government bureaucrats.

Their independence will be witnessed in the production of their content. The content must reflect the arts and culture of the communities they are servicing. Content producers living in these communities must be excited because they are presented with new possibilities to realise their dreams.

Above all these community radio stations must maximise community participation and make it their mandate to equip the youth with life skills.

This is a major game-changer and more importantly for the arts sector in the region. Over the years musicians from the region have lined up to cry foul claiming their songs or works are overlooked on national stations.

However, spotlight would be on them once the community stations hit the airwaves. It would be interesting to see if the marginalisation mantra was valid. They have to supply content to the stations, quality work to prove that indeed they deserved airplay on national stations.

We urge the arts sector to produce quality material. Without constant supply of high quality material, the stations would struggle to survive. It’s time for artists to prove their mantle. Excitement alone is not enough!

Source: The Citizen Bulletin

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