September 25, 2021

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15 Years, The Digitalisation Program Remains A Pipe Dream

By Shingirai Vambe

At the ITU Regional Radio Communication Conference RRC 06 held in Geneva in 2006 (GE-06), a digital broadcasting plan was to complete the migration process by June 17 2015 and to date the Government of Zimbabwe has failed to achieve even half of the required standards.

The agreement at the GE-06 was that of having frequency bands 174– 230MHz (VHF Band III), 470 – 582MHz (UHF Band IV) and 582 – 862 MHz (UHF Band V) and 5 years down the line they would complete the 3rd phase of having VHG Band III.

Earlier this year the minister of Information Media and Broadcasting Services, Monica Mutsvangwa told Post On Sunday that funding was the major barrier.

The zeal and enthusiasm that Zimbabweans had during the national tour by ZBC, Broadcasting Association of Zimbabwe and the Ministry of Information educating content creator on the importance of the program has since gone.

Mutsvangwa said out of 48 base stations required only 18 were installed and upgraded to the digital standard level with the state broadcaster being on top of the list to be equipped with modern equipment while there are still some gaps on the radio department.

Progress by the government of Zimbabwe on the digital migration was exposed during election campaigns, opposition political programs and covid-19 period where social media has taken the lead with current Twitter space and zoom being used to host live stream meetings.

The main reason for the migration was to release valuable spectrum which could be used for other services and the GE-06 agreement was not to interfere with neighboring countries signals along the borders after the June 17 2015 deadline .

The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Media and Broadcasting service last week called in BAZ, Zim Digital Migration and ZBC for oral evidence regarding the long waited project.

Zim Digital and ZBC have since appeared before the committee and according to the state broadcaster, the have received USD $300 million so far and they are still looking forward to upgrade radio studios.

In Zimbabwe radio is the most listened thing and according to research, radio Zimbabwe and studio 7 are amongst the top of the list.

Recently government has licenced 6 private television channels to complement a 4 decade monopoly of ZBC and to date the six haven’t started operating.

According to research and statistics, most parts of the country and citizens at-large have been starved with information and entertainment due to various obstacles such as the language barriers, air waves and television frequency because of lack of equipment.

During the budget proposals last year, minister Mutsvangwa said, “if funding is not prioritized towards this development, the already acquired equipment will be soon abandoned because of speed technology is moving with it will be obsolete”

The digital migration program has been cited as the best way forward of leaving no one behind, as content creators will be producing content in various languages which can be understood by every Zimbabwean.

Contacted for a comment, Committee chairperson, Hon Sipho Mokone told this publication that they are yet to get a report from BAZ and as a committee they will produce a report in that regard.

“The committee is focused on various media related issues and moving with speed, starting with bills that are being aligned and this digitalisation program.

We have already visited some studios and newsrooms in Zimbabwe and our call is to have absolute access to information, safety of practitioners and an enabling environment for everyone in the media industry” Mokone said.

Due to the novel corona virus, Potraz has already recorded a sharp increase in all operators in Zimbabwe as most citizens are now relying on mobile data to access information through social media.