'We will meet digitalisation deadline'

BULAWAYO - Government says it is confident that it will meet the June 2015 international digital migration deadline.

With the struggling national broadcaster ZBC having missed the 2012 Southern African Development Community (Sadc) digitalisation deadline, speculation has been rife that with time fast running out, next year’s deadline will be hard to meet.

But speaking during the official opening of the Inxusa Festival in Bulawayo on Tuesday, Information and Broadcasting Services deputy minister Supa Mandiwanzira said his ministry was certain that by June next year, Zimbabwe would be having multiple television channels.

“Because of the transition from analogue to digital which should happen by June next year, we are going to have multiple television channels,” Mandiwanzira said.

“We are going to have for each UHF frequency that we have in the country, we have about four. Each one will create a potential 18 to 20 new television channels. What that means is we are going to have as many TV channels by June next year.

“We cannot go beyond June because internationally we are bound by International Telecommunications Union (ITU) agreement and regulation that every nation must have switched off analogue and switching on to digital,” he said.

The deputy minister admitted that they were racing against time to ensure everything was in place before the deadline.

While Zimbabwe is still wallowing in the analogue era, neighbours such as Botswana and South Africa have made strides in the digitalisation process.

To date, Zimbabwe has only two television channels and four radio stations run by the State. In 2012, two commercial radio stations were also licensed.

But government has increasingly come under pressure to license private players in the form of community and commercial radio licences.

The Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (Baz) has already invited applicants who want to set up radio stations as the airwaves are increasingly opening up.

Mandiwanzira said the opening of various channels was going to develop the struggling arts fraternity, adding that his ministry was committed to the sector.

He said the government would also stick to the 75 percent local content policy as a way of promoting Zimbabwe’s own in the arts and culture sector.

“We will have these multiple channels and we are very clear about 75 percent local content. As a result, we will require all these festivals to fill up that space in the channels.”

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