Cablegate: Government Puuls Plug On Semi-Independent Tv
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UNCLAS HARARE 001355
DEPT FOR AF/S, AF/PD
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LONDON FOR GURNEY
PARIS FOR NEARY
NAIROBI FOR PFLAUMER
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PHUM KPAO ZI
SUBJECT: GOVERNMENT PUULS PLUG ON SEMI-INDEPENDENT TV
1. The government of Robert Mugabe refused to re-new
the broadcast license of semi-independent television
broadcaster "Joy TV" and the station ceased operations
on May 31. The following report from the Zimbabwe
office of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)
offers an accurate summary of the sad case of Joy TV.
2. Begin Text:
CURTAIN COMES DOWN ON JOY TV
Zimbabwe's privately owned broadcasting station, Joy
TV, started in July 1998, closed down on 31 May 2002,
bringing down the curtain on Zimbabwe's botched
experiment with broadcasting diversity and carrying the
same dream down with it.
Joy TV closed down after a lease agreement it had with
the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) was
canceled on the grounds that Joy TV had violated the
Broadcasting Services Act that was enacted in 2001.
Joy TV was leasing ZBC's second station, generally
known as TV 2.
The closure of Joy TV leaves the state-controlled ZBC
as the sole broadcasting voice in Zimbabwe. Although
the Broadcasting Services Act was enacted in 2001,
purportedly to regulate the entry of other players into
the industry, no private station has been licensed to
date. The ZBC therefore maintains its "monopoly".
The short but eventful life of Joy TV faced stern
challenges, especially direct interference from the
government. This manifested itself in a direct order
for the station to drop the BBC news bulletin it
broadcast everyday. Joy TV was also never allowed to
produce local news except musicals and apolitical
documentaries. The station's reliance on the ZBC for
transmission was a contributing factor to its demise.
The government could switch it off at any time,
effectively preventing Joy TV from producing any
programming that challenged the status quo.
The closure of Joy TV underscores the need to license
other players to enter the broadcasting industry. MISA-
Zimbabwe believes the Broadcasting Act needs major
amendments if private players are to survive in the
The government has largely ignored the calls to amend
the Act, which makes it virtually impossible for
private players to enter the industry. Among the many
blemishes in the Act are the prohibition on foreign
investment in the broadcasting industry and the
requirement that broadcasters adhere to a strictly
defined programme content.