'Invest in language development'

BULAWAYO - On April 24, 2017, three government officials from the Information Media and Broadcasting Services ministry, namely minister Christopher Mushohwe, deputy minister Sithokozile Mathuthu and the permanent secretary George Charamba made profound policy intent statements on the creative industry that ought to be examined to establish their implications on the development and growth of the same.

The pronouncements were made at the ZimDigital content producers in Plumtree, Matabeleland South.

The three major take away points from the meeting are therefore summarised as government of Zimbabwe’s declaration of intent to; review the broadcasting legislation, make the 16 official languages compulsory for all broadcasters and encourage local content production.

It is imperative to note that the above stated three proposals are of paramount importance in the development and growth of the creative industry in the country.

This is irrespective of the fact that the policy proposals were convoluted in political grandstanding, which does not in any way diminish the gravity of the substance at hand.

In addressing the meeting, the ministry of Information alluded to the fact that the government will review the broadcasting industry with the hope of making the 16 official languages mandatory for all broadcasters.

While it is critical that the country upholds and strengthens the development of its languages, the government seems to be starting from the flipside of the developmental curve.

If the government is serious about upholding the official use of the 16 languages as stated in the Constitution, it must first make it mandatory for all its departments and organs to make use of the languages before abrogating the responsibility to the creative industry. Government is a conventional force through the bureaucracy, which can set the practice by example.

The spirit of legislative review was therefore lost in translation as the government representatives leaned on attempting to gain political capital rather than putting the creative industry growth agenda first.

The process of reviewing the broadcasting laws is welcome trajectory in as far as it broadens and stimulates the tentacles of the creative industries.

This can be achieved by focusing on the convergence of the industries through the growth of Internet, the opening of the airwaves to competitive players, establishment of community radio broadcasting and setting the appropriate legislative environment to see the flourishing of content generation.

This process requires a wholesale legislative review with the aim of positioning Zimbabwe as competitive brand with a strong creative industry ranging from designs, creative services, cultural and natural heritage, information technologies, content generation, publications and press clusters to name but just a few.

The government is both the rights holder and enabler given the number of its duty bearers, hence the need for the government to take a leap of leadership in the implementation of the referred to rights for every facet of our existence for the people to follow on its implementation footprint.

We appreciate that the supreme law of the land is promoting the upholding of such a crucial national asset, which is under increased pressure from other international languages. However, the government should invest in ensuring that cultural assets remain preserved and developed, not but targeting the mouthpiece — broadcasting, but ensuring that the languages preservation and development starts at all government levels.

It is too much to expect a miracle from the creative industries to start recruiting translators when the government is aware that the industry is strained by operational costs and trading on loses or narrow margins of profit.

If the directive is made on the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), to set the ball rolling, it has traction since this is a public asset, which has the burden to ensure that it serves all the people of Zimbabwe through their diversity. It is part of the ZBC mandate, to promote, develop and preserve languages of Zimbabwe.

The government should never be of the mistaken view that the Command Content Generation (CCG) will work! That’s why the current national tour by the ministry will not yield any tangible outcomes.

Content generation industry will only emerge if the government opens the broadcasting industry to competition. This will enable the prospective suppliers to bid for the highest prices of their products.

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