The new Zanu-PF Government has started on a good note in the arts industry by emphasising that it will enforce the fulfilment of the 75 percent local content for broadcasters as provided for under the country’s laws.
We welcome Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo’s clarification of the issue this week when he emphasised that the 75 percent local content will be enforced without fear or favour.
His reminder comes at an appropriate time considering that broadcasters had slackened on this important matter over the last few years.
It was evident that the broadcasters were being carried away and were no longer operating according to the dictates of the law.
That the requirement for 75 percent local content is provided for by the Broadcasting Services Act clearly shows the importance of this aspect for the development of the country.
Specifically, the Act states that a television broadcasting licensee must ensure that at least 75 percent of its drama, 80 percent of its current affairs, 75 percent of its social documentaries, 75 percent of its informal knowledge-building programmes, 80 percent of its educational programmes and 80 percent of its children’s programmes are Zimbabwean.
The Act also emphasises that another 10 percent of the material to be broadcast should be of content from Africa.
When it was being implemented in the early 2000s, it was clear that the local content policy was meant for Zimbabweans to assert who they are and give pointers to where the country came from and to where it is going.
We observe that this crucial lesson is still important for the country, considering that there is always a new generation that might be lost if not taught about the basic tenets of who they are.
The local content programmes will mean Zimbabweans will hear and watch programmes which are not only relevant to their society, but which they also identify with.
Granted the capacity to produce quality local productions is limited, that should not mean that we accept as normal being overwhelmed by foreign programmes, most of which are trash.
We believe that this is the time to once again promote our small industry of producers and other creative talents by providing them with resources and training facilities.
There is a need to fund production houses for them to come up with quality productions.
We cannot escape the fact that the success of this noble policy depends on how producers are equipped so that they are able to keep broadcasting stations busy by constantly providing them with the material.
In the same vein, we urge the producers to rise to the occasion and be prepared to go the extra mile by improving their productions.
We expect the production from the local producers to make the grade so that everyone benefits from the local content.
It is clear that the future of broadcasting is firmly being thrust into the people’s hands.
We have only ourselves to blame if we fail to have radio and television stations that are truly Zimbabwean in every respect.
Local content is the story about ourselves, our lives, our dreams and our aspirations, a fact that binds everyone and is the way to go.
Zimbabwe will not be the first to have local content.
American television has 90 percent local content, the same with British television, so why not the same for Zimbabwean television and radio?
Local musicians, theatre producers and film makers must celebrate that finally they will be useful to the arts industry.
What is exciting about the 75 percent local content is that the perennial problem in which local artists played second fiddle to poor and mostly irrelevant foreign productions and music is coming to an end.
The move will also help solve some cultural problems that have been haunting Zimbabweans.
We note that the policy is in line with the indigenisation programme that was expertly espoused by the Zanu-PF manifesto for the July 31 harmonised elections.
We need locals to control the broadcasting industry as a way of economically empowering them.
Everyone remembers what happened when the policy was introduced in 2001.
Suddenly, the landscape had changed and a host of local television programmes and musicians started arriving on the scene.
The events were so exciting to such an extent that a new musical genre, urban grooves, was born out of the policy.
We look forward to more exciting times ahead.