The Sunday Mail
THE Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) has amassed massive television content suited for varied ethnic groups in the country, a top company official has revealed.
It is hoped that this development will broaden the national broadcaster’s spectrum by regaining lost ground and capturing new viewers.
A sizeable number of people have over the years dumped the country’s sole television channel in favour of satellite television.
Lack of rich and diverse content options have been cited as some of the major reasons for viewership flight.
ZBC with the help of various Government and private institutions has, however, been working around the clock to address the anomaly.
Content creation training programmes that have been conducted by the Zimbabwe Film and Television School of Southern Africa (Ziftessa) under the ZimDigital programme seem to have become a part solution.
The ongoing filmmaking skills training programme covered all corners of the country.
The first round of training was conducted about two years ago in Bulawayo, Harare, Mutare and Masvingo. This was then followed by the second phase, which covered areas like Victoria Falls, Plumtree, Gwanda, Chipinge, Marondera, Bindura, Chimanimani, Nyanga, Chinhoyi, Kariba, Lupane, Binga, Hwange and Gweru.
Dozens of budding and established filmmakers benefited from the workshops.
They undertook basic training in scriptwriting, producing, directing, cinematography and editing. Results of the programme are beginning to show on television.
Productions like “Diaspora”, “Evolution of Reggae”, “Ziyanyongana”, “Animal Health” and “Paivepo” that are currently showing were born out of the fresh content creation initiative.
In an interview, ZBC chief executive Patrick Mavhura, said the workshops had created a new wave for the national broadcaster.
“The content sessions were an eye-opener. We have a lot of talent scattered around the country. We tried to establish television preferences in different provinces. Dramas proved popular. For example, in Kariba they are working on drama titled ‘maBlock’ while in Chimanimani they have ‘Tsono’,” revealed Mavhura.
“We are doing follow-ups on producers that gave us contacts. Some of their productions have come through for consideration on television and we also want to get hold of the content they are still working on once they are done so that we have better diversity.”
Apart from improving ZBC-TV content, the broadcaster also needs to gear up for a massive content appetite that will be created by the completion of the ongoing digitisation programme.
The national broadcaster will have to run additional five television stations.
Mavhura is aware that the multi-million dollar investment made in the installation of state-of-the-art broadcasting equipment around the country will count for nothing if solid content is not secured.
“The whole idea is to first make our station the most preferred television channel before we open other channels and we are making progress in that regard. We have since set up provincial content coordinating centres that are responsible for harnessing content.
“Our thrust is now different. Focus is no longer on Harare and Bulawayo alone. We now have dramas like ‘Diaspora’ coming from provinces and a number of talk-shows and animation programmes that are coming through. Our viewers are liking it as they can relate with the issues and actors,” said Mavhura.
ZBC head of productions and televisions services, Godknows Chera, said aggression for content has since moved to another level.
“Ziftessa is giving us a collection of short film projects that are 13 episodes by 25 minutes long. We are also getting content from tertiary institutions, our point people in provinces and independent producers. The challenge that we now have is to create space for everyone on television. There might be room for improvement in quality but the content is certainly rich,” notes Chera.
“Sipho Sami” (drama), “Ekhoneni” (comedy), “Gaza” (drama), “In my Shows” (reality show) and “Audible Africa” (comedy) are some of the ZimDigital generated programmes that are set to or have already gone on air. ZBC has also identified regional and international sources of content that will make them more competitive.
The national broadcaster has since entered into partnership with Namibia Broadcasting Corporation, Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation, Jiangsu Broadcasting Corporation from China, Nippon Hoso Kyokai Japan Broadcasting among others.
But the imminent arrival of private players like the Zimpapers Television Network (ZTN) has also kept ZBC management on the edge of their seats.
Zimpapers was recently granted a television broadcasting licence by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe making it the first and only integrated media house in the country.
The Zimpapers owned television aims to air top-notch programmes ranging from current affairs, sport, documentaries and showbiz.
ZTN has since set up a production house and some of its programmes are already streaming on various social media platforms.