A content revolution is coming

. . . transition from analogue to digital to improve quality and content

Tafadzwa Kadani

Though Zimbabwe failed to meet the deadline set by the International Telecoms Union to cross over from analogue to digital broadcasting, this does not mean there is no progress.

The transition from analogue to digital broadcasting is set to not only improve broadcast quality but also content.

This, in turn, will benefit producers, media students, improve viewer satisfaction and increase revenues, among others.

To many people digitisation is a technical term and they have not come to appreciate the benefits that come with the change but sooner than later they will have an appreciation of the term.

Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Deputy Minister Thokozile Mathuthu said all systems were in place and only a few things needed to be done before they could officially launch digitisation in the country.

“We are done with most of what needs to be done, all the initial stages have been completed up to the equipment needed at our Pockets Hill studios in Harare,” said Deputy Minister Mathuthu.

The refurbishment of our two studios at Montrose Studios in Bulawayo is done and it is all systems go now.”

However, most people do not understand what digitisation really means.

Simply put, digitisation is high-definition picture quality and goodbye to poor television broadcasting, explained Deputy Minister Mathuthu.

“You cannot go to my mother in the rural areas and tell her about digitisation because she doesn’t understand that, but you can tell her about improved picture quality and I believe this is the case with most people even in urban areas,” she said.

The change from analogue to digital broadcasting is set to bring in a lot of change which includes opportunities to expose local independent content producers.

According to the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe, digital television broadcasting is the use of digital technologies in the transmission and reception of communications services.

Digital technology takes representative samples of the original signal and converts these samples to digits, into what becomes a digital representation of the information.

Since the information is in digit format, the information can be processed using computers, and be conveyed using digital transmission techniques. Digital information does not degrade easily and where it becomes degraded, particularly during transmission, it can be corrected and be restored to its original state.

This enables the original quality of the information to be restored or maintained at the receiving end unlike analogue.

Deputy Minister Mathuthu said there is need to improve the curriculum for media students in the country so that there is qualified personnel in the industry.

“We definitely need the curriculum for media students to be improved, not changed, so that it will cater for the changes brought by digitisation,” she said.

Mr Tonderai Makaniwa, an independent producer, also shared the same sentiments saying the industry needs people who are experienced.

“The institutions that train media students need to improve on the practical aspect of training because broadcasting is more practical and it takes practice for one to be acquainted with the equipment,” said Mr Makaniwa.

Digitisation will also create employment in the media industry and other related industries.

“The change from analogue will see those young people who are well vexed in information technology (IT) skills, acting, presenting and graphic design among others getting employment relevant to their training,” Hon Mathuthu added.

Mr Makaniwa also said this was really going to help keep the talent that is being appreciated elsewhere in the country, for example the likes of Arnold Chirisa, who are now Hollywood stars.

“To produce a 30-minute feature film we need about 10 people in my crew to do the editing, floor management to mention but a few and in the process we create employment,” Mr Makaniwa said.

He added that digitisation was actually ushering in a film industry in Zimbabwe saying that previously it was there in theory but now it will be there in practice.

“It sad that Zimbabwe was one of the first countries to have a broadcasting station but at the moment we are still lacking in that area, but I’m sure this change will put us back on the map,” added Mr Makaniwa.

Hon Mathuthu also mentioned that the problem of getting people in the peripheral areas of the country to watch television will be in the past.

“Digitisation has come to erase totally the issue of people in the peripheral areas not getting TV signal, now everyone will have access to TV,” she said.

The digitisation process will also help the media industry to be competitive and match that of regional and international media and help to tell the Zimbabwean story such that viewers can relate to what they are watching.

“Zimbabwean products will be on the forefront now, everything will be Zimbo-centric and maybe we will start to talk of our own Zollywood in the near future,” said Mr Makaniwa.

He went on to add that digitisation has come to usher in a new era in terms of business and employment, saying this initiative will not only benefit the media industry but marketers and other related industries.

“Though this is a good development there will be a challenge in the area of broadcasting equipment that is quite expensive, apart from that we are ready,” Mr Makaniwa said.

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