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Government comes to its senses on TV and Radio listener’s license fees



Whoever said that the law is the law and it changes not clearly did not live in the modern age of technology. In recent times technological advancements have caught the law napping on numerous occasions laying to waste sound principles that had been hitherto accepted as legal maxims since the time of ancient codices. For example two parties from two countries enter into a deal online using email, which country’s law should be used in governing the contract given the likely radical differences between such laws in the two countries?

One such law that has been recently exposed as inadequate is Section 38 of the Broadcasting Services Act. Section 38B of the said law dictates that no listener shall have a receiver without a listener’s license from the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation. Typically, the license can only be obtained after payment of a license fee to the state broadcaster through one of their agents. What this effectively means is almost everyone, from toddlers, who has a device that is capable of receiving radio waves must pay a license fee whether they listen to radio and watch TV on it or not.

There has been a proliferation of devices with those capabilities in recent years. Most people own smartphones with radio and TV apps that are capable of receiving radio or Television signals. People are therefore left in a quandary: are they supposed to pay licenses for all these devices including devices owned by their children and dependents as the Act seems to require? That could result in massive license bills that would simply bankrupt some folks.

Secondly, there is the old argument that possession of that device does not necessarily mean that people are using it to receive ZBC signals. Considering the pathetic content that comes out the state broadcaster fewer and fewer people use their services. Why should I be required to pay for something that I do not use? Also, despite being the sole broadcaster for a while now there are still a good number of areas without TV signals coverage, so do these have to pay license fees as well even though there are clearly not beneficiaries?

That the law was not made that long ago brings into question the competence or at least the good faith of those who enacted it. Most of these contentious clauses were enacted circa 2003 and it is rather odd that the government lacked the foresight to see how tyrannical the laws would seem if radio and T.V. receivers proliferated as they have. It is difficult to see how this law in its current form can be enforced anyway. Would the ZBC license officials search everyone for receivers at roadblocks? It is refreshing however to learn that the government has plans to scrap the law. The Secretary for Information and Broadcasting Services made these revelations in the Herald recently but did not give a timeline as to when this promise will be fulfilled.

It is important for our legislators to remember that time and the world do not stand still-even for the law. Someone once said “,Every new time will give its law.”  Legislators must therefore strive to make sure that the law, which is society’s operating system, is kept up to date and relevant to today’s needs, customs and requirements. Concerning the law, George Washington  said ” Laws or ordinances unobserved, or partially attended to, had better have never been made.” One thing is for certain therefore, whether or not the government repeals the listener’s license law people are still going to ignore it as if it does not exist.

Picture from CNET.


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10 thoughts on “Government comes to its senses on TV and Radio listener’s license fees

  1. The important point is it is ANY receiver, not necessarily one that can even receive the relevant ZBC frequencies. For example many Japanese imported cars can only dial up to 90, which means they cannot receive any ZBC stations but still need a license, I have confirmed this with many people at ZBC licensing, this would also mean that walkie-talkies, baby monitors, wireless cctv etc etc etc all need a ZBC license, utter madness.

      1. Provided that a dealer who has a receiver—

        (a) in or on his business premises; or

        (b) being used in the course of a demonstration;

        shall not be regarded as a listener in respect of his possession of that receiver;

        [inserted by Act 6/2003 with effect from the 19th September, 2003.]

        “receiver” means an apparatus—

        (a) in respect of which no licence is required in terms of the Postal and

        Telecommunications Act [Chapter 12:05]; and

        (b) which is capable of being used for the reception of a broadcasting


    1. Remember that walkie talkies are potraz. Baby monitors operate in “free frequency bands that are not licensed”. Wireless CCTV is IP based and wifi does not need a license.

  2. The law was not put to be that technical. This “fight” for not paying the fees has been around for donkey years with various being produced as to why people should not pay the license.

    In my opinion, the law was had other reasons which I feel are very much political. They know if they empower the cops to do the license work, it will frustrate the locals. Why stop every vehicle for a license? It is not like they just woke up recently to the fact that it does not make sense. This law did not make sense kudhara but these gentlemen had it on their books knowing fully well that plenty areas do not have signal, many watch programmes on the vivid decoders or DSTV, some do not bother at all. Only urban folks faced this law in full. Rural areas were not as much affected by it. I think this is just viewing things in retrospect but the removal of this law, well, may take longer than expected. Remember Gvt is broke and any avenue they can milk the thin cow will be acknowledged. And the TV license is one one the teats on the udder of the thin cow that will be extensively tugged for every drop/cent.

  3. i clicked this post thinking that something had actually been done about the matter, i was dismayed to find out i was reading info i saw in the papers on sunday…

    at this stage its all talk but no actual action – i want to know if i should bother paying for my radio license in my car at the end of the month

    1. lol. i thought the exact same thing. none of the post offices have ZBC radio licenses anyway.. so there is no point worrying about it yet.

  4. Too many fancy words to simply tell me that they are scrapping off the fees, but thanks all the same

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