by Tafadzwa Murangwana
Radio is a powerful medium that can be able to change people’s perspectives and enable them to make informed decisions. Recent surveys have pointed to appalling voter apathy among youths in Zimbabwe. One is bound to feel that this can be changed if the radio stations here do not over emphasise the entertaining role to precede over other roles.
The coming in of new radio stations had reignited hopes that there will be a rapid change in terms of content but that has been dashed as most of them are replicas of ZBC’ Power FM which most of the urban youths do listen to. The rural youths have been left out as most of these new stations do broadcast less in vernacular.
Some of the radio personalities have made household names for spewing trivialities. I have listened to some 3-hou r shows where you can’t draw anything that can make the youths privy to the national discourse. There has been the proliferation of Zimdancehall shows on many of these stations with very critical issues affecting the youths glaringly missing.
While some stations like Star Fm and ZIFM have tried to introduce political programs they have been biased in their presentation and the language has been mainly English. Former radio presenter and Mabvuku-Tafara MP James Maridadi said he wrote to Star Fm complaining how the station over-edited a pre-recorded program where he was a guest.
“I was naïve to accept to be a guest on a pre-recorded program and I have raised my disgruntlement with Star Fm regarding their adulterations of the program to suit their agenda,’ said an irate Maridadi.
The same stations were also caught in another controversy when it failed to live broadcast a Transform Zimbabwe party event despite the latter having paid fully for the services. The radio crew decided to stop the broadcast abruptly after a call from the superiors advising it to stop forthwith. This raised the ire of many people who had attended the event.
What the new stations have brought is media pluralism rather than diversity and this has been a disservice to most youths who needs to be appraised on the critical process of democracy, governance, human rights and accountability which are all essential in shaping a better future. However, what we have seen are youths who are up-to–date with latest Zimdancehall songs and jokes rather than key issues and with the elections beckoning next year it will be very sad to see such a powerful medium failing to reach its full potential.
ALTERNATIVE MEDIA INITIATIVES
This country has many alternative media initiatives that if given adequate support can be able to provide youths with an alternative voice.There are many community radio stations that are waiting to be licensed so that they can fully function. Sometime this year, I had a chat with Trevor Mtisi who heads Kumakomo FM, a Mutare-based community radio stations which operates in urban Mutare and surrounding areas and he said while they have been given a nod by authorities to operate radio listeners’ clubs where they distribute compact discs to concertise them on service delivery, this year they have been put on a ‘leash’ to monitor them not to sway away from their focus.
‘We used to clear with a few authorities but now we are going through a red tape to be cleared,” said Mtisi.
There is also ChannelZim, a platform where initiatives like Radio Voice of the People, Corah FM, Radio Dialogue, Studio 7 and Radio Kwelaz broadcast using the free-to-air satellite channels and internet was gaining traction in terms of listenership but is facing sustainability challenges denting the hopes of many youths who were listening to dissenting voices that were being given space by these initiatives.
HOPE IN SOCIAL MEDIA BUT…
The advent of social media has opened up opportunities for youths to freely participate in critical national discourse. We have seen how #hashtags on Twitter have effected changes in some cases, for example, Moto Republic ‘a hub for youths’ was saved from demolition by the Harare City Council. The city fathers had to back off after a spirited social media campaign.
We have seen a spike in social media activists like Acie Lumumba, Pastor Evan Mawarire and Linda Masarira have become popular for addressing critical issues through social media.
But hold on folks, while social media is an enabling tool in making the youths participate in critical issues it has it’ s own inadequacies as internet accessibility is still low among many of the youths especially given the fact that most of them are reeling under unemployment. For the rural youths, it is even worse as some of the areas do not have the infrastructure. Critics have also pointed that social media activism is not effective in addressing key issues affecting the youths as most are calling for radicalism.
With the current local radio stations, it will be a tall order to have youths who are keen in participating in the national discourse as they will continue to work tirelessly to preserve the current status quo of deficient youths.