The digital migration exercise which was a focal point for the national broadcast service entities last year has entered into the content production phase and every Zimbabwean is expected to have access to digital television by March this year.
According to a report in the Herald, this update on Zimbabwe’s digital migration was shared at an event held in Harare to mark the launch of this new phase.
At the event the Deputy Minister of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Thokozile Mathuthu reiterated government’s commitment to the digital migration project which has been shown by a deployment of $125 million in resources so far.
Speaking at the same event, George Charamba, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry Information, Media and Broadcasting Services mentioned that the government acquired equipment that includes 28 HD cameras and 20 editing suites that will be hired out to content producers.
Other considerations that have been made with the digital migration resources include the setting up of broadcast sites and the securing of set-top boxes that will be used in Zimbabwean households. However, the biggest challenge at this stage will be the securing of digital content that will be broadcast on the 12 HD channels created through the migration.
It has to be more than just a phase
So far, the creation of several channels that offer platforms to showcase local productions has been received positively, especially since the financial resources to pay for the content have been made available. However, not enough content has been brought forward.
Half of the new channels will be state controlled as such there will be a strong emphasis on local content. Filling up that void is hardly a cake walk, especially with considerations such as the quality of productions as well as consistency from producers having to be considered.
To add on to this, technology like the internet has ensured that producers have alternatives for distributing their content. Then there’s the shift in competitive dynamics brought on by MultiChoice’s drive to acquire and distribute local content through its new channel Zambezi Magic.
Local producers have been keen on this arrangement because of increased visibilty for their work and an opportunity to create portfolios that cater to a more rewarding market size.
To counter all these aspects, all stakeholders involed in the content production phase will likely have to look at it as a long term exercise that will require a lot more committment.
This might mean investing in skills development to ensure that producers meet certain standards, as well as kickstarting grassroots development programmes for content creation to help transform video prodution into a thriving industry.
These strategies are similar to what MNet, the MutiChoice subsidiary, dove into at least 30 years ago and fine tuned over the years to create content creation models that have been used for its other channels.