George Maponga Masvingo Bureau
Government is courting several Sadc countries to be part of the Southern Times newspaper and turn it into a truly regional newspaper as part of efforts to enhance regional integration through joint ownership of print and broadcasting media services.
The Southern Times newspapers was formed in a joint venture between Zimbabwe Newspapers and New Era of Namibia, in a quest to create a regional newspaper with a Pan-African slant.
Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of a consultative meeting with content producers and players in the film industry in Masvingo yesterday, Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister Dr Chris Mushohwe said plans were at an advanced stage to bring on board other Sadc countries to foster regional integration.
Dr Mushohwe said a Sadc television channel that will be hosted by all Sadc countries on a rotational basis was also on the cards, as efforts intensify to achieve wholesome integration in the region.
“It is not just in broadcasting where we are pursuing regional integration through the planned Sadc television channel, but we have also started talks with other countries in the region to be part of the Southern Times so that it becomes a truly regional paper,” he said.
‘’Recently, I managed to engage with officials from Lesotho, Zambia and Malawi and impressed upon them the need for them to be part of the Southern Times because we want to have a regional paper and a regional television for us to be totally integrated.”
Dr Mushohwe said the proposed regional television and newspaper will be telling stories about the region and help in the materialisation of regional integration.
He said regional integration in the media dovetailed with similar ongoing plans to create seamless national borders, roads and railways in the region.
“We should be able to fully exploit the planned Sadc television channel that will be hosted in member countries on a rotational basis to tell our own story as Zimbabwe,” said Dr Mushohwe. “We must use the station to brand ourselves as a nation by producing content with a Zimbabwean brand and flavour.”
Dr Mushohwe said the planned switch from analogue to digital terrestrial television posed a challenge to local content producers to come up with content that will feed into the new channels.
“The major challenge that we will have is availability of content that is why we are engaging content producers and film makers so that we do not have blank channels when we finally switch on to digital television,” he said.
“As Government, we are trying our best to make sure that there is enough content, local content for that matter and we have acquired cameras and studio equipment from countries such as France, South Africa and of course China.”
Dr Mushohwe said indications were that the technical side of the digitisation project would be completed at the end of April.