HomeLife & StyleNew TV stations – Potential deal breaker for creative sector

New TV stations – Potential deal breaker for creative sector

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THE licensing of the new six television stations by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) have been met with mixed reactions by creatives.

BY WINSTONE ANTONIO

This is the first time that the country has licensed commercial television stations since independence, but the process has been described as much ado about nothing since the some of entities were linked to the ruling Zanu PF party.

Of the licensed stations, one is linked to the government while others have individuals heavily involved in Zanu PF and the military.

The successful applicants granted licences are Jester Media (Pvt) trading as 3KTV, Zimbabwe Newspapers (ZTN), Rusununguko Media (NRTV), Acacia Media Group (Kumba TV), Fairtalk Communications (Ke Yona TV) and Channel Dzimbabwe (Channel D).

In separate interviews with NewsDay Life & Style yesterday, some of the creatives said the new players should come in with fresh ideas than those presented on Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) TV and they have to invest heavily in content if they are to capture the market.

The convenor of the Content Creators Network ZW Samm Farai Monro aka Comrade Fatso said as content creators they were hoping that the new TV licences would be awarded to new cutting-edge independent and alternative voices.

“Our government is really the biggest comedian because this awarding of TV licences is a joke. They have awarded six TV licences to people who are regime enablers connected to the government and in certain cases even to the military, what TV channel are the soldiers going to run, what are they going to show us, military parades?, he queried.

“This is really sad and unfortunately it is. With this scenario it means that we are not going to see content creators in the media sector in Zimbabwe growing. Unfortunately it’s just going to be continued censorship of content that goes to these new stations connected to the State and we are not going to see any new narratives or alternative voices.”
Seasoned filmmaker and director Joe Njagu said the onus was on the six TV stations to prove their worth, adding that as the creatives they were ready to feed content to the stations.

“Well for starters any movement in the sector is a welcome development. It was about time too because since independence the country had only one TV station. I was also excited that fellow creatives like Cont Mhlanga and Moses Matanda are at the helm of two stations that were given licences, so that is hopeful to have people from the sector involved,” he said.

“I am more curious than anything to see what their next steps will be. Content is King, and to run those stations successfully they need good content. We are living in a global village where people are exposed to everything so these new stations should know that their market is already exposed to DStv, Netflix, and Showmax among others so they already know what good content is.”

Talent of Steel Film and Television Company director Eddie Ndhlovu shared the same sentiments with Njagu that content is of significance to the new channels, adding that the stations should engage content producers or consultants so that they won’t repeat the same mistakes being made by the national broadcaster ZBCTV.

“With the six new channels coming on board, this is a sign of two things either this is the time we as creatives have been waiting for or it’s just going to be “other new stations”. The core business of a commercial television station is content, therefore, without content, the station is like a stationary vehicle that is not able to move from point A to point B,” he said.

“So if these new stations want to come out tops, they have to invest big in content. The advantage right now is that there are a lot of local stories to tell, therefore, the first station to give financial support to producers will win the hearts of the best and major players.”

Ndhlovu, who is also the executive producer of popular soap opera Wenera, said these stations should also consider that there are existing platforms like DSTV and Netflix that have been winning the hearts of viewers of late.

“As a seasoned television producer who brought back a fair number of local viewers to ZBC again from 2015 since we premiered Wenera, I have got a lot of insight into how important quality content is, it is expensive to produce,” he said.

“As a producer who has vast experience in producing for TV, I advise them (new stations) to engage people like us producers or consultants so that they don’t repeat the same mistakes being made by the national broadcaster. The bottom line is, content is King.”

Renowned script writer, film and theatre director Farai Elton Mjanana said there was a need for commercial exchanges between the content providers and the new broadcasters, adding that because of technology there was some real test ahead.

“The business of TV is really based on content. So these stations have to get that sorted, getting content. Enough content to not only fill their schedules, but meaningful content for the sense of achieving whatever their objectives are, whether entertaining or educating, the basis of a television broadcaster remains content,” he said.

“But how do they get content? Of course they must have some currency, whether monetary or otherwise. Content is not produced freely, hence it cannot go freely.”
Mjanana said ZBCTV with all its commercial potential stemming from its infrastructure to its personnel had not fared well in a long time.

“Perhaps the new players are coming in with fresh ideas and taking advantage of the times we are living in considering technology and general access to information within audiences.

People have various devices which are a form of information and entertainment source these days,” he said.

“People with phones, IPads and laptops among other gadgets can watch what they want when they want with no need to follow scheduled programming. So there is some real test ahead for the broadcaster.”

He said for the content providers there were some expectations.

“I have not seen excitement, but expectations, yes expectations that who is going to take our content and for what price. Expectations of business booming and finally getting platforms that will showcase the works,” he said.

“In the fullness of time, my hope is that the fate of Munhumutapa TV and Joy TV does not befall any of these newly licensed stations.”
Arts critic Plot Mhako said the new TV stations should stimulate a boom in demand for new content, viewership and, therefore, help in the creation of a new economy in filmmaking.

“The demand in programming will mean new opportunities, potential revenue for artists, content creators and support sectors. The film and television production industry will be awakened and a new economy emerges,” he said.

Mhako said the significance of the TV stations would, however, depend on their editorial policies.

“The percentage or local content found on the TV stations and most importantly the amount of money injected towards commissioning of new material and how artists’ rights will be respected will determine the importance of these stations,” he said.

“If the stations are not able to commission content and pay artists for their work then their significance will be minimal and my hope is that artistic independence and freedom will be respected and tolerated.”

Award-winning film producer and director of Light Image Productions Melgin Tafirenyika said the new stations were a breath of fresh air and a potential deal breaker for the creative sector.

“Where people would flock to ZBC to sell their content, this time hopefully it will be TV stations chasing content and, therefore, the potential of getting the actual value of your product as opposed to a monopolised environment,” he said.

“We acknowledge the role ZBC played in trying to keep the creative industry afloat, but to be honest, they were also under-resourced by the government such that they would end up doing barter trade where content should just be purchased so we pay our actors and crew.”

Tafirenyika said hopefully the new stations would assist even in the development of films that sell Zimbabwe to the outside world.

“Film is a business and any filmmaker expects returns from their product. I know there is plenty of exceptional content that creatives have been producing trying to sell even beyond our borders. Now that we have this development, I hope the new stations will be heavily funded by the shareholders,” he said.

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