HARARE – Digitalisation of broadcasting services will open up the airwaves to address public concerns about lack of media plurality in Zimbabwe which has become a bone of contention among media stakeholders, Media, Information and Broadcasting Services minister Jonathan Moyo has said.
Moyo told delegates at a stakeholders’ meeting in Bulawayo on Thursday to brace for transformation that will be ushered by digitalisation which he said will address issues of media plurality, particularly in the broadcasting sector.
He said the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (Baz) could not do anything about licensing more players because of limited frequency spectrum that are allocated by the International Telecommunications Union.
But this would change once digitalisation comes on stream.
“Zimbabwe is set to digitalise its broadcasting services by June 2015 in line with world trends and move away from the analogue VHF system that has restricted expansion to accommodate more players in the broadcasting sector.
More than $30 million is needed to digitalise transmitters apart from refurbishing studios to accommodate new digital equipment.
As a member of Sadc, Zimbabwe should have digitalised by December this year.
“These sentiments of bringing new players or opening up the airwaves will now be of necessity driven by this major global transformation from analogue to digital platform,” Moyo said.
“There are legal implications which stakeholders should participate in formulating. There are real business opportunities because we will be able to have a new more efficient platform for conveying content which means new business that was not possible under analogue.”
Moyo said stakeholders should help the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation to become the station “we want” and it should also brace itself for stiff competition from new players that will come on board with digitalisation.
Stakeholders, particularly those in the arts industry, had complained about the marginalisation of Matabeleland in the way broadcasting services particularly radio stations reflect biases against artists from the region.
They suggested the ministry should decentralise the licensing of production houses through reviving television full-fledged broadcasting from Montrose Studios in Bulawayo and licencing of community radio stations to cater for the diverse cultural composition of the population.
Artists implored the ministry to look into censorship in the arts industry which stifled creativity by harmonising the Censorship Board over the material and content shown on television.
They said Bulawayo as a centre for content production is being constrained by biased attitude against the region that allows Harare to hog the limelight in national artistic events or national celebrations such as musical galas.
In response, Moyo said his ministry would confront the perception of marginalisation and would work to unify Zimbabweans and promote national cohesion.
“What is necessary for us all to be clear on what the national agenda is and do everything we can to advance it,” Moyo said.