Pamela Shumba, Senior Reporter
RESIDENTS of Hwange have urged the Government to exempt them from paying radio and television licences since their area does not receive Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) radio and television signals.
Speaking at a Zimbabwe Digital Broadcast Content creators meeting in Hwange on Friday, the disgruntled residents said it was unfair for them to pay licence fees because they have never had access to local television and radio programmes since independence.
A Zim-Digital team, led by Minister of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Dr Chris Mushohwe is on a nationwide tour to mobilise content producers as part of the country’s digitalisation process.
Deputy Minister Cde Thokozile Mathuthu, Permanent Secretary Mr George Charamba and senior officials from the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ), ZBC, Transmedia Corporation and the Zimbabwe Film and Television School of Southern Africa form part of the team.
Residents said it was unfair for ZBC to demand licence fees from them as they were paying for nothing.
“We don’t understand why we’re being forced to pay for radio and television licences yet we don’t receive ZBC signals. It’s not our fault that Government is yet to service our area as far as transmission is concerned.
“We therefore want to be exempted from paying radio and television licences until we’re able to receive transmission. ZBC should be able to discharge its mandate first before demanding money from us,” said Mr Cephas Chinhaba.
Mr Godfrey Sibanda said traffic police officers were also demanding ZBC licence discs from motorists in the area yet they do not have access to the country’s radio programmes.
“Police are arresting motorists for not having radio licences. They even do this in the absence of ZBC officials. We want to know if this is within the law or not. Most people in the area access ZTV through DSTV, which they pay for. It doesn’t make sense for us to pay ZBC again,” said Mr Sibanda.
Responding, BAZ chief executive officer Mr Obert Muganyura, who is also the Zim-Digital project manager said they were making frantic efforts to make sure that all parts of the country receive signals.
“It’s unfortunate that people have to pay viewers licence fees. The law says everybody in possession of a receiver, which is a radio or a television set should pay licence fees whether it’s working or not.
“We understand that it’s not fair for people here to be paying licence fees but we’re working flat out to make sure that we all receive transmission regardless of where we are,” said Mr Muganyura.
ZBC acting chief executive officer Mr Patrick Mavhura said the money paid towards licence fees was going towards the upgrading of digital infrastructure.
“Our public mandate as a public broadcaster is to make sure that we all participate in the upgrading of the transmission infrastructure. We’re currently in the process of installing transmitters in the areas with no signal and the money being paid as licence fees is going towards this investment.
“The completion of this project will see everyone benefiting from the local radio and television programmes.
“That’s why no one is exempted from paying viewers and listeners licence fees,” said Mr Mavhura.
Other areas in the country that do not receive ZBC signals are Kariba and Hurungwe in Mashonaland West, Binga in Matabeleland North and Beitbridge in Matabeleland South and Mwenezi in Masvingo.
Dr Mushohwe has emphasised the need for content producers to take the digitalisation process seriously as it would go a long way in creating employment and promoting the country’s official 16 languages as well as cultural values.
He said a lot of content is required as the project will start with 12 channels, six belonging to ZBC and the other six belonging to private players.