Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Radio VOP Exposes State Propaganda through Professionalism

By John Masuku
HARARE -- Radio Voice of the People (VOP) has just celebrated 10 years as the voice of the voiceless citizens of Zimbabwe and is marching ahead much stronger and more focused on telling the story of Zimbabwe as it is and in countering widespread propaganda from state-dominated broadcast media.
Since 2000 the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), the state-run and controlled broadcaster, has been in full throttle as a propaganda machine for ZANU PF, the dominant political party in the current ruling coalition, thus providing fertile ground for the birth of exiled short wave radio initiatives like Radio VOP, which is run by Zimbabweans.
Despite the existence of a closed electronic media environment in the country – sadly dating back to colonial times – Radio VOP has thrived and seeks to promote political, economic, social and cultural development through broadcasting, online and other multi-media platforms.
With its two, one-hour short wave broadcasts every morning and evening, via Radio Netherlands Worldwide transmitters, plus a 24-hour news website, the station keeps Zimbabweans fully informed about what is going on around them and beyond.
Radio VOP has refused to be silenced in its quest to see a democratic media and political landscape in Zimbabwe. A devastating bomb blast that ravaged its offices to ashes in 2002, followed by the arrests of some of its staff who were subjected to long court trials, and the negative pronouncements by state authorities have all but proved to be ineffective deterrents.

Guided by values of editorial independence, people-centeredness, ethical and professional journalism standards, gender sensitivity and patriotism, the station is unstoppable. This is what keeps us going.

Its 500 000-plus audience enjoys impartial news and analyses focusing on political events, the economy,  health and poverty alleviation. It is considered to be one of the top-ten providers of news about Zimbabwe, registering about 50 000 visits per month on its website www.radiovop.com.

Leading such a bold entity in a volatile and repressive environment is a daunting task. As its chief executive officer, I always ensure that Radio VOP remains focused and highly professional in telling the Zimbabwean story impartially. This way, any authorities’ intent to close down private media and block the opening up of the airwaves are exposed and shamed. As a result, the station in 2006 was presented with the internationally acclaimed One World Media Award in London.

Through its private company VoxMedia Productions, Radio VOP, currently entirely donor dependent, and four other companies applied for a broadcasting licence in 2004. As largely expected, none of the applicants was licensed under the restrictive Broadcasting Services Act, administered by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe. But that has been no deterrent to Radio VOP, which has put up a robust licence application strategy for a popular talk, news and entertainment FM radio station that will run when airwaves are eventually freed. A robust business model is in place to lure advertisers and sponsors and decrease donor support.

Radio VOP remains in travelling gear. Sooner rather than later, the station believes that it will be on the FM dial and become an even greater force to reckon with.

John Masuku, a veteran broadcaster and radio trainer, is the executive director of Radio VOP.
He can be contacted at jjwpmasuku@yahoo.com  &   voxpop@ecoweb.co.zw


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