To date, a snap shot of the current broadcasting industry, very few independent productions are aired on Zimbabwean radio and television, a reflection of the challenges shared at the 2014 MISA-Zimbabwe Stakeholders broadcasting conference, by Independent film producer Tapfuma Machakaire. These include among other issues, the stringent commissioning conditions and editorial control and quality of productions, as set by the broadcasting entities.
The import of digitisation in the television industry in Zimbabwe is apparent when one looks at the only television channel in the country – ZTV. Undoubtedly the challenges that ZTV faces in meeting its obligatory quota will definitely filter down to the new television broadcasting players. At this juncture what is required is diversity in television production to include a variation in content for documentaries, diversity in language use in sitcoms, diversity in socio economic and political issues in drama and even exploring reality TV that genuinely reflects Zimbabwean day to day experiences.
Undoubtedly, the digital migration process will bring with it the possibility for more channels for both radio and television, and this is because digital broadcast signals can be compressed and offer more channels for programming in the freed up spectrum that previously was only able to transmit a single analogue channel. With digitisation Zimbabwe’s approximated four available television channels will increase five- fold.It is this reality that makes Minister Moyo’s recent announcement on his Twitter account of a local content development fund through the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) and a ‘low budget’ film fund, a welcome development.Funding of the sector is provided for in Section 29 of the BSA with the creation of broadcasting fund which inter-alia aims to provide grants to encourage the growth of the Zimbabwean creative industry including film and music industry to meet the local content obligations of broadcasting licensees. However, the administration and procedures of accessing the fund by broadcast stakeholders, let alone local content producers, is not clear.While already existing efforts are currently underway for a supplementary sustainability fund, there is need for a specific law that provides for funding within the sector and laid out principles relating to the processes of accessing that fund. It is this fund that should adequately cater for the current needs for capacity in particularly the independent production sector, and enable producers to meet the demand. The reality, however, remains that for those that are licensed, there is need to ensure that they still adopt business models to make their channels financially viable.Another recommendation is one that is advocated by stakeholders who attended the 2014 Stakeholders conference. This relates to the need for a sound local content policy framework be developed for the industry. The Broadcasting Services Act (BSA) outlines specific quotas for local content for various licensees in Section 11(3) and its 6th schedule ranging between 70 & 80 % for most broadcasters of Zimbabwean content, 10% of African content in some instances and around 30% for subscription broadcasters. There, however, needs to be clarity in the definition of what constitutes local content, particularly that, in some sections of the 6th schedule it is referred to as “Zimbabwean content”
Another key consideration relating to the policy includes the review of the existing quota, basing on a regional survey of neighbouring countries and an analysis of the extent to which the current broadcasters are compliant with the quotas. Monitoring of and compliance with quota stipulations is also critical within the policy. While Section 41(a) of the BSA mandates every broadcaster to make and keep a record of every program broadcast and make available for inspection by the Broadcasting Authority at its request, it is not clear how proper monitoring of adherence to local content measures is conducted.