The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zimbabwe has urged the government to play its role in enforcing reforms at the national broadcaster, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), in line with the recently gazetted statutory instruments 26 and 27 of 2020.
In its statement on the occasion of the commemorations of World Radio Day, MISA Zimbabwe said the issue needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency to transform the only national broadcaster in the country.
“This of paramount importance when viewed against the recently gazetted statutory instruments 26 and 27 and the proposed amendments to the Broadcasting Services Act through the Broadcasting Services Amendment Bill which is still to be gazetted.
Statutory Instrument (SI) 26 of 2020 regulates Digital Terrestrial Television Broadcasting Services while SI 27 of 2020 regulates issues relating to Licensing and Content,” reads part of the statement.
SI 26 seeks to define and provide preliminary guidelines required for the roll-out of Digital Terrestrial Television Broadcasting Services in Zimbabwe. The Regulations contained in this Statutory Instrument apply to terrestrial television broadcasting licensees, signal carrier licensees and suppliers of television receivers.
Digital migration thus refers to the switching of broadcasting from an analogue system to a digital system of broadcasting.
The International Telecommunications Union called for this switch because digital broadcasting allows for the broadcasting of higher definition media when compared to analogue broadcasting. This is a much more efficient utilisation of the broadcasting spectrum which also allows for a wider broadcasting range.
A popular example of a digital broadcasting service is Multichoice’s DSTV service. Similarly, once the Zimbabwean digital migration process is complete, viewers will have to require set-top boxes or decoders to access television programming.
In that regard, the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) will allocate six high definition channels (technically referred to as a Multiplex) to the public broadcaster, which is ZBC. BAZ will also allocate a second multiplex or six high definition channels to licensed commercial television broadcasters.
MISA Zimbabwe said it would be pointless for the state run broadcaster to be issued with additional channels yet it has failed to fully utilize a single channel.
“… it is common cause that ZBC has so far failed to generate content for the current single television-broadcasting channel it is utilising, as evidenced by lack of quality, independent programming that contributes to a plurality of opinions and an informed public, lack of comprehensive news and current affairs programming, which is impartial, accurate and balanced, lack of wide range of broadcast material that strikes a balance between programming of wide appeal and specialised programmes that serve the needs of minority audiences, limited coverage to serve all the people and regions in the country, poor educational programmes and programmes directed towards children, limited support for local programme production, through minimum quotas for original productions and material produced by independent producers,” MISA Zimbabwe noted.
Adding that, allocation of an additional six channels to ZBC given its current state of affairs, and without implementing its long-overdue transformation, would only serve to perpetuate ZBC’s failure to fulfill its public service mandate.
“MISA Zimbabwe, therefore, urges government to institute and implement a practical ZBC turnaround strategy that will see the public broadcaster produce and broadcast modern, quality and relevant public interest programming.”
Meanwhile, the institute has also urged the government to revisit the current licensing regime as characterised by the prohibitive fees which pose as barriers to local commercial and private players that have an intention to take part in the media and broadcasting sector.