No ZBC For You If You Don’t Pay Your TV Licence…

Bad tv screenImage Via: Lilia Morgunova

As Zimbabwe is set to digitally migrate as soon as March this year, viewers will be made to pay between $3 to $5 per month in order to access the national broadcaster. Failure to pay will result in one not being able to watch ZBC, something that not many will lose sleep over.

This essentially sees the scrapping of TV licences, that viewers were made to pay regardless of whether they watched the channel or not, as having a TV set was qualification enough to pay.

As the new format will see households without compliant televisions being made to get a “set top box” – a specific type of decoder (400,000 of these having been imported by July last year) and they will have to be paid up in order to access the service.

This will be interesting, as ZBC themselves have acknowledged that they offer poor programming and the onus is now on them to improve the type of content that they screen. Failure to pay content producers is one of the key areas that needs to be addressed, but under the new structure, when one pays their subscriptions, this money will now be paid through Transmedia.

Zimbabwe was meant to ‘digitise’ by June last year, but various challenges saw it missing the deadline, and subsequently moving the targeted deadline to November 2015. We missed that too.

Digitisation is generally defined as broadcasting in digital format rather than the analogue which Zimbabwe has been using. The migration enables signals not to go across borders as spill overs will interfere with reception in neighbouring countries.

Digitisation will also result in the opening of the airwaves as digital broadcasting allows signals to be compressed and that potentially could give Zimbabwe up to 80 broadcasting channels, according to the ministry.

Television viewers will need to pay extra in order to access “other channels” that will also be launched.

Interestingly, the Constitutional Court is yet to pass judgement over a case where Jessie Majome (an MDC-T Member of Parliament and a lawyer) took the national broadcaster to court arguing that “(ZBC) is openly biased towards (the) Zanu PF party in its general reporting, news casting and general programming to the detriment of other bona fide political parties, particularly MDC-T of which I am a senior member.”

Over a year after the Constitutional Court last heard the matter, a judgement is yet to be passed, however she is optimistic that one will be released in January 2016 when the Constitutional Court opens.