Govt starts designing local radio transmitters for rural communities
Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporter
THE Government, through its digitisation programme, has started designing local radio transmitters to help rural communities access information on key developmental programmes.
The programme is being spearheaded by the Ministries of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services and Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development.
Speaking on the sidelines of the official launch of indigenous languages’ radio lessons programme in Bulawayo last Friday, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services
Mr Nick Mangwana said Government is committed to ensuring that there are transmission signals throughout the country.
“The Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services has combined with the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary and put together a team of engineers from Transmedia, BAZ and our institutions of higher learning and we are designing our own transmitters, which are cheaper and in line with our own social context. It will be easier and much cheaper for us to ensure that we cover every piece of our territory and that no one is left behind in terms of access to information,” he said.
Government is implementing the programme under the fourth cycle of the 100-day plan.
The two ministries have jointly assembled a team of engineers from Transmedia Corporation, Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) and selected institutions of higher learning and they are designing radio transmitters to improve access to information by the rural folk.
Six gap-filler transmitters have since been installed at Tugwi-Mukosi, Gokwe-Nembudziya, Maphisa, Zvishavane and Kanyemba and many communities in remote areas now have access to radio services following the successful roll-out of Government’s digitisation programme.
The number of gap-filler transmitters is expected to reach 11 by the end of this year, with five more expected to be installed in selected areas to improve radio connectivity in previously marginalised areas.
The installation of the transmitters is an interim measure to circumvent prevailing hard currency shortages to import main transmitters, which enable remote communities to access radio services.
Installation of the gap-fillers started in 2018 and was conceived by local engineers.
The digitalisation programme will improve access to television services countrywide and create scope for allocation of more radio and television frequencies. Government’s thrust to make Zimbabwe an upper middle-income economy by 2030 will attain impetus through making sure all communities had access to information.
Government is prioritising the digitisation programme in the allocation of resources to expedite the transformation from analogue to digital broadcasting.
Mr Mangwana said there is need for information to be relayed to all corners of the country timeously for the benefit of communities in remote parts of the country.
He said the process of licensing community radio stations is progressing well although the response was affected by Covid-19.
The deadline for digital television and community radio licence applications was extended to May 29.
BAZ had set March 20 as the deadline for both television and community radio station applications, while university campus radio stations were not given any deadline.
Mr Mangwana said so far Great Zimbabwe University (GZU) has been licensed to operate a campus radio station.
Matabeleland South province was allocated three areas, some bunched together, that will have community radio stations.
Plumtree, Empandeni, Maphosa and Ndolwane will make up one area, while the other two areas will be made up of Manama and Legion as well as Beitbridge and Shashe.
Matabeleland North Province was also allocated three areas and these are Hwange and Victoria Falls; Binga, Kamativi and Kariba and Mbembesi.
“We are going to launch about 40 community radio station and so far from the applications, we have one coming from Plumtree and that is Radio BuKalanga and another one coming from Beitbridge for the Venda language as well as Chikombedzi and that is the Shangaan one. We extended the deadline to allow people to put things together and we are asking communities which had not come together to come together and pool resources and come up with a comprehensive document,” said Mr Mangwana.
“We are going to have community radios based on language meaning all languages spoken in Zimbabwe are going to have a station of their own and that is in our priority list as a ministry. Indigenous languages are important and as Government we do acknowledge that we have our work cut out since we do not cover the whole country and it is currently, it is only Radio Zimbabwe which covers a wider spectrum than any other radio station in the country as it covers bailout 80 percent of our territory while the rest cover between 50 and 60 percent.” — @mashnets