BAZ misses digitisation deadline
Elita Chikwati Senior Reporter
The Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe has missed the March 2016 digitisation deadline it had set for itself and the process is now expected to be completed by mid-2017, an official said yesterday. The initial deadline could not be met due to funding challenges.
The team spearheading the digitisation programme yesterday revealed this to Chief Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet Dr Misheck Sibanda during tours of some stations that it had initially set March 2016 to complete the digitisation pro- gramme.
Dr Sibanda, accompanied by his deputies, Rtd Col Christian Katsande, Dr Ray Ndhlukula and Mr Justin Mpamhanga, Information, Media and Broadcasting Service Ministry permanent secretary Mr George Charamba, principal director Mr Regis Chikowore, ZBC and BAZ top management among others, toured the Bindura base stations, Pockets Hill and a monitoring station in Highlands to gauge progress in civil works taking place at the stations.
BAZ chief executive officer Engineer Obert Muganyura told the team the project last received funds in October 2015.
“Non-disbursement of funds has become the biggest challenge for the smooth implementation of the project. The target date was March 2016, but we are no longer able to complete the process by December 2016.
“We owe the contractor $19 million. Shipments of the remaining equipment has been stopped. We cannot collect equipment from the warehouse in the country. Engineers have become idle and the contractor is threatening to recall them for re-assignment,” he said.
Eng Muganyura said vast progress would be made if the company received $27, 2 million urgently.
He said with this money, equipment worth about $10 million would be shipped to Zimbabwe, 11 towers replaced, and the company would be able to pay for satellite lease costs as payments were now due.
“The money will also enable us to place orders for 400 000 set top boxes, pave way for digitisation of an additional 15 sites, shipment of additional six new towers, acquire 10 ENG camera systems and FM transmitters for six sites, and three radio transmission studios,” he said.
Eng Muganyura commended Government’s intervention on content creation.
He said Government created a Content Commission Committee and acquired content production equipment and was meeting production costs among other interventions.
Dr Sibanda said digitisation of broadcasting services required Government support to co-ordinate with funders and come up with an innovative way of mobilising funds to enable its completion by mid-2017.
“We feel this is a project that needs the support of Government so that we take it to its logical conclusion to make it successful before the end of 2017. If possible by mid-2017, we need to have achieved the anticipated objectives of this project because it is a fundamental project with a multiplier effect.
“It is at the core of Zim-Asset in terms of employment creation, introducing ICT, creating business opportunities of artistes in various forms,” he said.
Dr Sibanda said he was impressed by the project particularly the progress that had been made not withstanding the funding constraints.
“I am more impressed by the fundamental changes that have happened here in the whole area of integrated broadcasting where you meet the whole aspect of the media side, together, with actual broadcasting; where you interpret the two systems and the use of engineering in an integrated form,” he said.
He said it was pleasing that digitisation was being done within the context of Zim-Asset.
“It is pleasing that we are utilising young graduates from local universities and beneficiaries of the Presidential Scholarships who have had the opportunities to acquire very rare skills.
“It is important that we nurture these skills and not let them depart from Zimbabwe. We need to quickly utilise the acquired skills. This is an opportunity which we cannot let pass.
“In Bindura, we were impressed by the transmission station. This is a big opportunity that will let our country be together with other countries in ICT. It will ensure we do not lag behind so that the rest of Zimbabwe will develop.”
Digitisation is expected to address challenges of reception of broadcasting services in Zimbabwe.