INFORMATION, Media and Broadcasting Services minister Jonathan Moyo has hinted that 40 new commercial television licences would be issued after completion of digitalisation in June 2015, marking the beginning of the end of the State-controlled Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) monopoly.
According to Moyo, digitalisation of broadcast services will be achieved by June 2015 in line with requirements of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) which set that deadline for all member nations to digitalise their broadcasting services and therefore open up the airwaves.
“Digitalisation is one of our priority areas, especially with respect to broadcasting,” Moyo said. “We will have to switch off the analogue system by June 2015 . . . when the digitalisation starts, you won’t have to worry about ZBC alone or at all.”
As a result of this move, there would likely be a major shake-up of State-control as Moyo pushes to ensure Zimbabwe complies with the ITU requirements and that ZBC survives the lifting of its three decade monopoly.
Moyo said he would do “something” to ensure ZBC was the best channel in the land by the time the digitalisation is introduced.
The last time Moyo did “something” at ZBC during his first stint as Information minister following his appointment in 2000, scores of experienced workers, including journalists, lost their jobs.
He also renamed all radio stations and relocated some radio stations from Harare and Bulawayo to smaller towns resulting in the State broadcaster recording huge losses.
Yesterday, Moyo said if it was up to him, he would make sure that by the time the country digitalised, ZBC would be the best broadcaster and not have to worry about new players “but it is not entirely up to me”.
“However, since I was appointed in the ministry, I will try and make sure that something is done,” he said.
He said ZBC deserved the people’s support as it had one way or the other played a part in the growth of the people of Zimbabwe both in consumption of news and training of personnel.
Moyo said he had heard that ZBC had come up with a digitalisation budget of about $100 million.
“Digitalisation is cheap. You don’t use big screens or any fancy things, but can broadcast even from a laptop,” he said.
“Let ZBC calculate the budget not in the dark rooms of their stations and allow some sharks to come up with exorbitant fees. The process should be transparent.”
Moyo said it was impossible to licence more than two stations with the current analogue system the country uses and invited contributions from stakeholders on what to consider in the licensing of the 40 new stations.
Moyo challenged the media to highlight the need by the government to raise $30 million for the digitalisation of the project that would see the setting up of 48 signal transmitters to reach all parts of the country.
The present analogue system uses only 24 transmitters with some parts of the country failing to get radio and television signals.
Moyo promised that his ministry would ensure that the new players in the sector produce Zimbabwean content adding that they would be guided by the country’s founding principles, particularly Section 3 (1) (i) of the Constitution which spells out recognition and respect for the liberation struggle.