As Zimbabwe Missed Digitization Deadline,Live Streaming Takes Over


The television remains one of the most vital communication medium the world over used  for disseminating information and providing entertainment and has been described as one of the greatest inventions of electronics engineering to mankind.

 Africa has experienced such a marvel though it took some time. The first terrestrial television broadcast signals in Africa occurred on Saturday October 31, 1959 and belonged to the Western Nigeria Television Service (WNTS). This was a critical milestone in Television history and today Africa boasts of over 600 television stations.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) held the Regional Radio communication Conference (RRC-06) which took place in June 2006 in Geneva, Switzerland. This is where  participants unanimously endorsed a motion for broadcast stations to migrate from analogue to digital broadcasting with deadlines of June 17,2015, and June 17, 2020, for countries using frequency bands such as VHF.

The transition from analogue to digital terrestrial television broadcasting presents governments, broadcasters, regulators and the general public with vast opportunities and challenges. Digital terrestrial broadcasting provides possibilities for adding new interactive multimedia services that will change how users enjoy broadcast services.

Within a 10-year window, several countries chose one single date for all broadcast operators to switch over to digital broadcasting. Buoyed by optimism, Zimbabwe set out a number of strategies to meet the June 2015 deadline and so far they have not yielded the intended results as it has missed the deadline.

According to the ITU time table, the start date for transition from analogue to digital television broadcasting was 17th June, 2006 while the deadline was 17th June, 2015.Zimbabwe has glaringly failed to meet this deadline by over 3 years now even though according to Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe is has managed to meet comply with certain ITU conditions .As a result, it now belongs to the bracket of those countries that have been given an extension up to 2020.With the prevailing economic conditions obtaining in the country ,it is highly likely that the deadline extension will not be met.

The most disheartening thing is that Zimbabwe being one of the first countries in Africa to open a television station in the 1960s has contributed a very minute fraction to the number of stations. The country was expected to make great strides in terms of growing the broadcasting industry but the situation has been a sad sight. Since 1980 when the country gained independence ,the government has not liberalized the broadcasting sector and rather created a monopoly in ZBC.

There are a number of reasons why the switch-over  has been a herculean task for Zimbabwe chief among them lack of adequate  financial resources which have not been availed in time.The issue of digitization has become like a broken record.

As Zimbabwe is grappling with the digital switch-over, a new phenomenon has exploded onto the scene and is spreading like wild fire. Live streaming has exploded over the past few years as a dangerous threat to traditional broadcasting.

Streaming has gained massive popularity buoyed by a data revolution and has  changed the face of broadcasting.More and more Zimbabweans are turning to streaming video platforms, and increasingly, consuming their media and entertainment via their mobile phones and are no longer parting with their hard earned cash  to pay for hundreds of TV channels they don’t watch.

New technology has transformed availability of video content over the internet  and the modern audiences  have gladly welcomed the new ways of doing things. A few years ago, streaming video content over the internet was considered to be expensive and time-consuming but as technology improved, video streaming started to become faster and easier to do with higher-quality content.

Live streaming has managed to cover many events happening in many different parts of the country in a way mainstream broadcasters have failed to do.Almost anyone with a phone can livestream video over the internet from almost anywhere where they have good signal strength. Live streaming is the future of how broadcasters will build up their fan bases and drive fan engagement on social media.

Social media sites such as Facebook,Twitter,Instagram and Youtube are the most popular in Zimbabwe where live streaming videos has  helped drive fan engagement by providing that timely feeling that recorded video segments may lack. It has made  fans feel more like they are a part of the proceedings.Political rallies,church gatherings,products launch,live music shows are some of the most followed by streamers.

Video live streaming is the future of broadcasting mainly because of fan engagement and for Zimbabwean digitalization to be fruitful whenever it happens it must be tailored in a way  that accommodates live streaming in its entirety.

With only one biased television station,millions of Zimbabweans have found live streaming sites that are awash on the internet as a diverse source of entertainment and information.

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