The news which hit the nation in the late months of 2015 was that Zimbabwe will have fully functional digital broadcasting channels by March 2016 but to the disappointment of the much expectant nation, today Monday 05 September 2016 we are still watching the poorly aired ZBCtv content from its analog broadcasting sites.
The Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe has dismally failed to handle the time frame of delivering the project with continuous miss of deadlines. Recent revelations by Mr. George Charamba who is heading the Zim Digitalization Program and also the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services said the migration’s latest stage was now facing financing problems with Huawei the chosen service provider refusing to release equipment over an US$29m outstanding debt.
Mr Charamba revealed the latest drawbacks on Face the Nation, a ZBC program which seeks to create national dialogue with government leaders and top business personalities on issues affecting the nation as a whole.
“We have been told the equipment is already in their warehouses but they are now contemplating to release it to us saying why don’t we pay the outstanding US$29m debt first. So despite our team making strides in setting up navigated digital broadcasting tours in different areas across Zimbabwe, now work has been slowed because of that challenge – said Mr Charamba”
Zimbabwe’s digital migration which is meant to ensure that the country adopts international standards for broadcasting and content distribution through digital channels is now long overdue after failing to meet the pegged project deadlines which were set during the first days of execution.
In early January 2016, the arrrears were said to be around US$42,4million according to the CEO of the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) Mr Obert Muganyura during a December 2015 familiarization tour of the BAZ offices where he also highlighted the outstanding payments of $42,4 million will be made to Huawei and other service providers that have been brought on to assist in the digital migration exercise.
A total of $125 million was required for the digitalization project and the funds were secured through the sale of digital spectrum to one of the State’s mobile network operators, NetOne. Muganyura pointed out that the implementation of the digitisation project is now being hampered by delays in the release of funds from the Central Bank.
Some of the project milestones so far have included securing of Satellite access from Eutelsat, acquiring equipment such as editing suites and HD cameras, the setup of securing of 400,000 set top boxes from a Chinese distributor as well as the engagement of content producers to populate the 12 channels and web TV option created in the process.
But with the recent snag being hit by BAZ in pursuing the project. #MondayBlues can confidently tell you that we are likely to reach January 2016 without receiving the promised digital channels if financial intervention does not come early. The Zim Digital Migration project is a good initiative which was expected to be a game changer in the broadcasting industry but unfortunately the project seem to in the hands of a team which enjoys doing things lackadaisically as if they own the future.