Parly urges Treasury to prioritise digitisation programme

THE Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Information and Media has urged government to prioritise funding of the digitisation programme, which is now overdue by three years.

BY VENERANDA LANGA

Mbizo MP Settlement Chikwinya (MDC Alliance) recently presented the committee report before the National Assembly, where he told MPs that if the programme to migrate from analogue transmission to digital was not completed soon, the country would face penalties for transmitting analogue airwaves.

“The Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services bid for $100 million for the digitisation programme, but only $38,3 million was allocated,” Chikwinya said.

“Digitisation was supposed to be completed in 2015, and the country faces penalties if we transmit analogue waves to other countries, and to avoid the charges, we need to migrate to digital waves.”

In the 2018 budget, the Information ministry was given $16 million for the digitisation programme, which at that time was 35% complete. But recently, the Information ministry secretary Ndavaningi Mangwana appeared before the committee and said to date the progress was at 36%, which meant only 1% more work was done with the extra $16 million.

The Information ministry was allocated $45,1 million in the 2018 National Budget and $38,3 million was allocated to the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe for the digitisation project.

In its policy priorities for the period 2019-2021, the Information ministry said it would expedite the finalisation of the digital terrestrial television project, which entails migration from analogue television broadcasting to digital.

The ministry also said they wanted to fully open up the airwaves by licensing more broadcasters, particularly for television and community radio stations. In the committee report, Chikwinya said they were planning to open up six more television stations.

Other areas that the ministry also wants to prioritise include following through the findings and recommendations of the Information and Media Panel of Inquiry (IMPI) report with a view to develop a media policy for the industry.

“There will be a retreat of all media stakeholders to discuss the IMPI report. We feel that the media industry is key in terms of content if we are to truly open up the country for business,” Chikwinya said.

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