The migration from analog to Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) appears to hang in the balance for Zimbabwe and a majority of other African countries. The international digitalisation deadline date is 17 June 2015 but ambitious SADC countries had set a regional deadline of 31 December 2013. Of the 11 SADC member states, only 4 countries South Africa, Namibia, Mauritius and Tanzania have migrated (some partially), but it hasn’t been smooth sailing for them.
DTT reduces use of spectrum providing more capacity than analog, provides better quality picture, and lowers operating costs for broadcast and transmission.
In South Africa, the multi-billion Rand digitalisation project was marred by tender issues, legal battles, shifting deadlines and technical glitches that saw some viewers being switched off completely. In Tanzania, many viewers were cut off and the situation was so bad that media companies demanded a return to analog. Namibia seems to be the only went through the process with some level of sanity at a cost of at least USD $11 million.
Given the complexity of the process, in Zimbabwe it could be even worse and there is a genuine fear that Zimbabwe and a whole bunch of other African countries may fail to meet the June 2015 international deadline.
In a video interview with TV Yangu in November last year, Deputy Minister of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services Supa Mandiwanzira said TransMedia needs USD $28 million to fund the project. Transmedia says on their website they need actually need USD $30 million for the initial phase of the roll-out.
Digitalisation is primarily a government responsibility and funding should be from the treasury. This obviously makes the Zimbabwean situation grimmer knowing fully well that our government is struggling for funds. In 2012, Transmedia was given a budget allocation of USD $5 million for digitalisation, but they only received about half of that amount.
Transmedia say that they were expecting to start pilot testing of DTT in Zimbabwe’s major cities in 2013 but the plan didn’t kick due to, presumably funding issues.
At this pace, if we do meet the deadline, the process will be rushed and may be as chaotic as was in other countries.
Below is a clip from TV Yangu with Deputy Minister of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services Supa Mandiwanzira addressing the threats to digitalisation and the opportunities.
Image credit: http://teeveetee.blogspot.com