Recently I have noticed a rise in community news focused YouTube channels. Channels such as Drewmas Media and Karanganda TV are rising in prominence and filling a void left by ZTV which continues to operate as a solitary channel. These channels are certainly not as popular as most entertainment channels on YouTube but they are gaining in popularity.. Some viral clips from these channels are actually making their way into trading video lists.
40+ years of one voice
Zimbabwe has been independent for over 40 years and yet we still have a single TV station. Efforts to introduce a second TV station have been thwarted on various occasions. For example, we used to have a second ZTV channel during the GNU era.
The country’s sole channel suffers from a number of problems that have favoured the growth of news channels on YouTube:
- A lot of people accuse ZTV of partisanship when it comes to political issues.
- Some areas still do not have good TV signal reception
- There is only so much content you can squeeze into one channel. The opportunity cost of having a solitary channel is high. Whenever you show one type of content you risk offending others who don’t enjoy that content and because you only have once channel people cannot reach for their remotes.
- Poor picture quality as ZTV continues to use analogue technology and digitisation seems like a mirage.
- Language barier. Most shows on ZTV are in one particular language and rarely include subtitles
- Thanks to there being one channel it means little coverage of community issues. ZTV instead typically focuses on issues of national importance.
Community channels have capitalised on these shortfalls by doing the following:
- Most generally avoid partisan issues like politics. Those that do tend to be either balanced or focus mainly on the opposition. The bulk of them tend to focus on tabloid news items such as those involving scandals, morality issues like adultery and affairs, witchcraft issue and so on.
- Viral news clips are shared via WhatsApp and bluetooth and therefore reach even the most remote areas of Zimbabwe.
- Frequent video uplaods of various issues and news items means that a variety of topics and interest can be covered in at the same time. Some channels are actually hybrid channels that offer a variety of content. For example Bustop TV and Sabhuku Vharazipi has comedy skits, videos covering various social issues as well as community news clips.
- Digital technology is often used resulting in much better picture quality. For sharing through WhatsApp videos are often cut down in size and are therefore smaller and can be shared easily.
- Channels often use the native dialect to appeal to the local communities they cover. For example Karanganda TV uses a mix of Manyika and Ndau. Those covering Masvingo and Midlands often use Karanga dialect. In most cases english captions are included too.
- As already pointed out most of these channels tend to stick to their provinces in most cases.
- Although radio programmes like Bhozhongora and Tilda Live give these channels a run for their money they have the advantage of video. Tabloid material is more applealing if packaged in video format. In some cases these channels actually duplicate the efforts of programs like Bhozhongora using video instead.