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Open Letter to ZBH executive chair

CDE Rino Zhuwarara, it’s good that your office is in charge of Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings (ZBH) policy matters while your subsidiary CEOs are in charge of operations.

a, sans-serif”>Is it not time that we have a ZBH broadcasting policy on religion and guidelines for religious programming in respect of broadcasting of musical shows, unbiased presenters and topics for discussion? Such a policy and guidelines would recognise the purpose of the religious broadcast to be that of promoting the spiritual harmony, understanding of humanity and the respect of the mosaic nature of our society in which one finds various religions.

In the absence of such a policy, ZBH has remained too pro-Christian to the extent that Christianity has become the official religion of our national public broadcaster.

Its broadcasting stations have equated religion to Christianity; religious music has become synonymous with Christian music; talk shows are all bible-based unless a token invitation is extended to other religions; moderators of infortainment programmes, cultural and religious talk shows are biased towards Christianity and hostile towards other religious convictions. There is no other religious programme on any of the radio and TV stations.

It would be honourable for various religions to provide and suggest programme content themselves, in addition to producing programmes for the ZBH.

The SABC’s religious programming reflects a mix of South Africa’s major religions while allowing expression for those religions that do not have an extensive following. For the purposes of its religious programming policy, major religions are understood to include African religion, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Judaism. Further, such programming seeks to ensure that the distinctive identities of the religious traditions are broadcast in a way that facilitates the religious and moral objectives of social justice, social harmony and the common good.

The SABC’s approach to religious programming is informed by the advice of the RBP, a body appointed by the SABC board and representative of South Africa’s religious community. The appointments are made on the basis of public interviews conducted by a selection committee appointed by the board and in accordance with the SABC’s Corrective Action Policy.

In Canada, the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) regulates Canada’s radio and television industries and religious broadcasting policy.

It reports to the government. The Canadian Broadcasting Act declares that the airwaves are public property and that the programming of the Canadian broadcasting system is a public service. It remains a principal tenet of the Canadian broadcasting system that licensees should provide balance on matters of public concern like religion.

In Britain, the Central Religious Advisory Committee (Crac) advises the BBC on religious broadcasting policy and programmes. The Crac is also empowered to act as a pressure group to support religious broadcasting.

This should apply to the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) before it licenses other radio and TV stations. We do not want to reach a stage whereby we end up getting organised around religious nationalism like you find in India or Israel.



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