Zvishavane-Ngezi Member of Parliament John Holder has said the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Media, Information and Broadcasting Services has been informed that Zimbabwe will meet the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) deadline for digital broadcasting from analogue to a new and efficient system based on digital technology.
Holder was speaking on the government’s state of preparedness to harness opportunities presented by digitization during the occasion of the launch of a report on licensing of community radio stations that was sponsored by Amnesty International and Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (ZACRAS). ITU has set 17 June 2015 as the deadline to comply with digital broadcasting.
“With regard to whether we are going to meet the deadline or not, I can advise you that we were fully informed by the Ministry that we are going to meet the deadline, as avoiding interference with our neighbouring countries broadcasting system is possible. New and existing transmitters established at border lines will be switched on 17 July and will be operating on digital platform,” Holder said.
Digitization presents opportunities to individuals and companies who are in mainline media and the arts sector as has the potential to benefit other sectors indirectly.
It creates an opportunity for licensing of more television players since an additional six high definition channels will be created by digitization thereby creating more jobs, intensifying competition which will result in in the production of quality programmes.
Despite these vast opportunities, ZACRAS chairperson Gift Mambipiri bemoaned the fact that over the last 14 years, the Zimbabwean government has failed to license a single community radio station despite passing the Broadcasting Services Act in 2001, which recognizes the three-tier broadcasting system and sets the criteria and licensing process.
The Amnesty International report entitled Beyond Tokenism: The need to license community radio stations in Zimbabwefocuses on violations of the right to freedom of expression in the context of consistent failure by the government to license community radio stations, and accompanying violations of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.
Director of the Media Centre, Earnest Mudzengi said government deliberately delayed the licensing of community radio stations because it wants to monopolise the flow of information and fears that informed citizens would not vote for certain political parties in future elections.
Lawyer Chris Mhike and former member of the Zimbabwe Media Commission said the licensing of community radio stations would promote media diversity and pluralism by empowering the urban poor and rural communities that are marginalized by the mainstream media.
“It appears that the attitude of the government is informed by the fear of landing radio broadcasting in the hands of political opponents. This is despite the existence of the legal framework that allows for the establishment of community radio stations,” Mhike said.
By Byron Mutingwende