From Abel Zhakata in Mutare
THE ongoing digitisation of broadcasting services will create more than 50 000 jobs downstream as local producers grind to make content to fill the increased broadcast hours brought about by the migration from analogue television, a Cabinet minister has said.
Addressing participants at a consultative meeting with independent film producers in Mutare yesterday, the Minister of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services, Dr Christopher Mushohwe, said the digitisation revolution had created employment opportunities for local artistes.
He said the countrywide consultative meetings were meant to inform producers of the amount of work they needed to do in order to meet the increased content requirement that must be filled by local material.
“The digitisation revolution underway has triggered these meetings with all stakeholders in the creative industries and this is arising from the realisation that there is a real risk of embarrassment and even failure on the part of the sector to deliver sufficient content to fill the overwhelming programming hours that become available following the transition from analogue to digital television.
“We are struggling at the moment to fill the broadcast hours available to the one television channel we have with local content. What more when the public broadcaster has six channels to contend with and even worse an additional six channels for commercial broadcasters,” he said.
Dr Mushohwe said the ministry had purchased equipment for content production which included state-of-the-art high definition cameras and editing equipment to kick-start the production of broadcast material.
He said digitisation was a game-changer whose positive impact would create jobs across numerous sectors of the economy.
“We are alive to the fact that we have creative skills in this country which beckon to be harnessed and channelled in the right direction. My message to you, your sector and to the nation at large is to look at the possibilities for employment creation and industry growth arising from the broadcast hours that need to be filled. These broadcast hours translate into jobs. That is the positive way of looking at our situation right now. No one single producer can do it, not even two or three content producers can do it.
“This involves many people working day and night to produce the relevant content. The challenge I am posing here is directed at one and all in the creative industries too numerous to mention. There is the film industry, broadcasting industry, publishing industry, interactive media, industrial and visual design industry, advertising industry, software design and development, architecture and related professional services and there is also the distribution industries. All these will form a formidable and growing part of the country’s economic activity. This is a sector with the potential to grow into a multibillion-dollar industry and just as it has done in other countries it can also happen here,” he said.
Minister of State for Manicaland Provincial Affairs Cde Mandi Chimene urged locals to step up and grab employment opportunities brought about by the new digital dispensation.
She said the promotion of local culture was paramount and as such, producers from the province must come up with content ideas that promoted their identity.
Permanent secretary in the ministry Mr George Charamba urged artistes in the province to come together and form an association that would enable them to access the newly acquired digital broadcast equipment in a professional fashion.
“There is no option here. You have to come up with an association so that you organise yourselves and use this equipment. We need accountability in the way this equipment is being used and that is only possible if you do it as a group,” he said.
Mr Charamba explained to the participants the benefits the country would derive from digital migration.
Apart from availing a modern television delivery platform with service capacity to license new television players, he said digitisation would provide high quality television services and improved reception among a plethora of other benefits like variety of choice, interactive services, business opportunities and employment creation.
Content producers welcomed digital migration saying the ball was now in their courts to rise to the occasion and produce television products.
They said the ministry had shown zeal and commitment to see the successful rolling out of the project by funding the production costs of the material they will produce using equipment acquired by Government.
The meeting was also attended by the Deputy Minister of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services, Cde Thokozile Mathuthu, and officials from the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe, Transmedia and the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Services.