ZVISHAVANE and Gokwe, as well as areas surrounding the two towns in the Midlands Province, have gone for close to a decade without Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) radio and television transmission.
Residents of the two towns, who spoke to Sunday News recently, said they had not been able to watch ZTV and sometimes could not listen to local radio stations as radio signal was erratic.
The residents said failure by Transmedia Corporation, the country’s television and radio signal carrier, to provide television signal had forced them to rely on satellite television which they, however, said lacked local news coverage.
Zvishavane has gone for 10 years without television transmission while Gokwe North and South districts, which last received television and radio transmission in 2006, have endured about eight years of electronic media blackout.
Chief Mapanzure of Zvishavane last week said his area last received ZBC radio and television transmission in 2004.
The traditional leader said lack of television and radio transmission in his area for the past decade had prejudiced people access to information.
He said most people in his areas had since turned to foreign television stations which they access via Digital Satellite Televison (DStv), while those who could not had been condemned to a complete electronic media blackout.
“If you take a walk around Zvishavane, whether the urban part of it or the rural areas you will observe that almost every household has a satellite dish. This is not because people don’t want to watch local television, but it’s because there has been no transmission.
“We have not had television transmission since 2004, the same with radio. I only get radio signal when I travel to Gweru or Shurugwi,” he said.
The traditional leader called on the relevant authorities to work towards restoring radio and TV transmission in Zvishavane to ensure that people in the district do not continue being left behind in accessing information that is relevant to them through local media outlets.
“Now people are watching news from other countries like South Africa, which may not benefit them in anyway. People should get news that is relevant to them, news about their country, now people in Zvishavane can’t enjoy such a service because of lack of transmission.
“Whoever is in charge of correcting the problem should do so soon enough because our people can’t continue being isolated from the rest of the country,” he said.
Chief Mapanzure’s sentiments where echoed by his Gokwe counterpart, Chief Nemangwe who said his area had not received both radio and television transmission since 2006.
“We have since bought satellite dishes because for the past five or so years we have not been able to tune into ZTV and watch local news and programmes, neither have we been able to listen to radio.
“Radio transmission is erratic, one day there is signal and the next there isn’t. Most of the time we do not have radio signal so what this effectively means is that we hardly listen to radio and are in the dark of what is happening out there,” he said.
Some residents of Gokwe town said what was irking them more about lack of transmission for ZBC’s radio and television stations was that they were still being compelled to pay radio and TV licences yet they were not accessing the service.
“What hurts us more is that we are still being asked to pay licences for radio and TV yet we have not been accessing the service for the past eight or so years. In my view this is not fair.
“We feel we should be exempted from paying licences because we don’t watch TV at all because of lack of transmission,” said Mrs Tambudzai Vingirai of Mapfungautsi suburb in Gokwe.
Transmedia Corporation acting chief operations officer Engineer Tinashe Zinyemba said people in Zvishavane and Gokwe would soon have radio services as the corporation was working on revamping radio transmission around the country.
On television transmission, Eng Zinyemba said most areas that were not receiving signal would be covered on completion of the national digitalisation process.
“We are in the process of revamping our radio transmission network and soon the people in those areas will be receiving radio transmission services. As we are in the process of digitalisation, we have a national roll-out plan that includes Zvishavane, Gokwe and surrounding areas. They will receive full transmission under this new plan,” he said.
Engineer Zinyemba said about 40 percent of the country’s television sites had so far been digitalised with the remainder expected to be covered as soon as the necessary funding was secured.
The television sites that have so far been digitalised are Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Masvingo, Mutare, Kamativi, Beitbridge, Victoria Falls, Plumtree and Kenmaur.
“Of the 24 television sites nation-wide, we have digitalised 10 of those sites, namely: Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Masvingo, Mutare, Kamativi, Beitbridge, Victoria Falls, Plumtree and Kenmaur.
“The other sites are yet to be digitised. However, we are currently in the process of acquiring the funds to purchase the necessary equipment for these sites,” Eng Zinyemba said.
Transmedia Corporation needs about $30 million to complete digitilisation of the country’s television broadcasting services by next year and meet the 2015 digitisation deadline set by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
ITU set 17 June 2015 as the deadline for all countries in the world, particularly Third World countries, to migrate from analogue to Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT). DTT reduces operational costs for broadcast and transmission, reduces use of spectrum and provides more capacity than analogue.
The technology also provides better quality picture. Sunday News