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Issuing of broadcasting licences put on hold; government said to be working on establishment of new regulatory body

(MISA/IFEX) - The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services (MIBS) has with immediate effect stopped issuing broadcasting licenses to new applicants, saying it is working towards the establishment of the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) that will soon take over the licensing function of all broadcasters in the country. MISA-Zambia initiated the IBA process through research and policy submissions and has been calling for this process to be finalized.

The MIBS Director for Press, Public Relations and Planning, Juliana Mwila, confirmed the development in a telephone interview with MISA-Zambia on 26 February 2009.

Mwila said the decision was linked to President Rupiah Banda's address to Parliament on 16 January in which he announced that the government would review the licensing framework to allow existing and new broadcasters, in both radio and television, to cover more of the country in terms of signal coverage. During the address, the president also promised that the government would make appointments to the boards of both the IBA and the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) in 2009.

She said that until a new licensing framework has been established, there will be no granting of new licenses. "We are only giving licenses to those that applied sometime back and not new ones. New ones will have to wait for the new licensing framework," she said.

Asked when the IBA will be established, Mwila could not give a timeframe but said progress had been made towards the establishment of the long awaited broadcast regulatory authority. "There is a lot of progress. A Cab Memo (Cabinet Memorandum) has already been circulated. Very soon Cabinet will sit and then we will proceed," she said before hastily ending the conversation.

MISA-Zambia was following up complaints from some new applicants who feel this might be a deliberate ploy by the government to prevent new applicants from entering the market.

Regulation of broadcasting in Zambia has been undertaken by MIBS in a caretaker capacity pending the establishment of the IBA that has dragged on since 2002 when the IBA Act No. 17 of 2002 was accented to by late president Levy Mwanawasa.

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