The truth is that Zimbabwe’s Digital Terrestrial Television initiative is in the doldrums. Apart from promises we have seen little action. The latest promise from our ever-immodest “Second Republic” is that we will soon see 12 new digital TV stations hitting the airwaves as part of digitisation. Yeah right.
Meanwhile south of our our border we can see South Africa making real strides the sort of which are hard to imagine taking place here given the complexities and costs involved. In March we learnt that South African broadcasters including SABC would be switching off their analogue signals in a year as they switch to digital TV.
It seems the South African government and its state broadcaster are determined to make sure that this happens. One of these steps is to ensure that people get the decoders that they need to be able to receive digital signals from broadcasters. Those who are still watching using analogue stations have now started seeing a notice from SABC telling them they need to get a decoder before analogue signals are switched off:
Important notice: If you see this message go to your nearest Post Office to register for a free government subsidised decoder or call 0860 736 832 to continue receiving a television broadcast.The text of the message
The message only appears on analogue channels and not when you are watching through digital platforms. That means it’s specifically targeted at those who need to make the switch.
One cool thing about all this is that not all people are not being asked to pay in order to get the decoders. Poor households who depend on the government’s social grants and those who have a monthly income of less than R 3200 per month will get their decoders for free courtesy of the government. Naturally, those who can afford to pay for their decoders i.e. those who earn above the R3 200 mark, will have to pay for their own decoders.
I cannot imagine our government ever doing something like this. Last year a lot of people were put out of work by the lockdown and the government promised them grants. That money, paltry as it was never arrived and people were forced to brave the risk of contracting the COVID virus to go back to work.
Coincidentally, it’s the decoders (STBs) that will indicate whether the Zimbabwean government is ready to roll out digital TV or not. You will need an STB in order to be able to receive a digital signal and so long as you don’t see them in shops or available for sale you can rest assured any announcements that we are ready are just announcements. Once the government is ready to roll, people will be told where and how to get their own STB.
The draw of digital TV
Digital TV comes with much better picture quality compared to analogue TV. A digital broadcast system will also mean more channels. It’s not yet clear how many channels we will gain but in a country that has had a single channel for decades even the 6 ZTV channels ZBC is promising will be a very positive change.
It will mean more specialisation and that will ultimately be a positive thing for those in the arts and content production. They will have more opportunities to showcase their talent on different channels.