Walter Mswazie Masvingo Correspondent
THE much-awaited migration of broadcasting services from analogue to digital will be launched in April this year, a Cabinet Minister has said. In March last year the government secured a $125 million funding deal that was signed between Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) and Chinese company Huawei International for the digitalisation project whose deadline was originally June 2015.
All southern African countries subscribing to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) have failed to meet the deadline.
Addressing independent content producers during a consultative meeting in Masvingo on Thursday, Media, Information and Broadcasting Services Minister Christopher Mushohwe said depending on the availability of the required resources, television production services will be switched to digital by April this year.
He said the digitalisation project which commenced in April last year is work in progress and the government is happy with the achievements made to date, albeit under difficult circumstances including resource constraints and illegal sanctions.
He said most of the equipment has since been secured from China with some cameras coming from France.
The minister said the digitalisation is almost complete as most of the work has been covered but expressed concern over the absence of local content, hence he called on film producers to bring their works to the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation.
He challenged independent producers to rise to the challenge through producing local content that promotes the country’s culture through the use of any of the 16 official languages enshrined in the constitution.
“We’re very happy with the good work that the contractor has done so far and as you may have heard, if the momentum is maintained, we may be able to do our launch by April. But for that to happen, government has to keep up to date on payments with the contractor and other service providers,” said Minister Mushohwe.
“We’ve secured most of the needed equipment that we can start our rollout in the immediate time. We’ve secured cameras, many of them for use by our independent producers. We got them from China, some from France.”
He bemoaned the lack of unity in the content industry.
“Besides, we don’t have much of a content industry to talk about because in its current form, it’s a fragmented industry with each stakeholder doing his or her own thing. There’s no unity of purpose and invariably we’re working at cross-purposes and undermining each other’s interests in the process,” he said.
He urged independent producers to unite and grow the content industry which has potential to create employment for many Zimbabweans especially the young generation.
“From the reports which I’ve been given about the level of interest shown and the level of participation at the recent meeting in Harare and Bulawayo, our youths commanded the larger figures. We also produce local content not only to satisfy the local market but also to target the external market which isn’t the exclusive preserve of Hollywood in the USA, Nollywood in Nigeria and Bollywood in India, to name just a few,” he added.
The government has secured 500 set-top boxes which are set to be tested by engineers soon with another batch of 400,000 having been ordered for the public.
Each set-top box, which works like a decoder will have a subsidised price of $25 and without the gadget one will not be able to access transmission.
Present at the meeting were: Media, Information and Broadcasting Services Ministry permanent secretary George Charamba, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation Acting Chief Executive Officer, Patrick Mavhura, Chief Executive Officer Transmedia, Florence Sidugu-Matambo and Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) officials, among others.