SC 2014-10 - Portfolio Committee on Media, Information & Broadcasting Services Report on Re-Alignment of Media Laws & Digitalisation Programme

1.0 INTRODUCTION
1.1 The promulgation of the new constitution created a democratic dispensation for the media fraternity in Zimbabwe. Section 61 and 62 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe recognizes freedom of expression, freedom of the media and access to information resrectively. In addition, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) set the 17th of June 2015 as the deadline for the completion of the digitalization programme worldwide, with specific consequences for failure to meet the deadline. In light of the above, the Portfolio Committee on Media, Information and Broadcasting Services instituted an inquiry on re-alignment of media laws with the new constitution and progress made towards digitalization.
 

2.0 OBJECTIVES
2.1 In its enquiry, the Committee was guided by the following objectives;
1. To appreciate challenges being faced by Transmedia, and the Ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services in fulfilling their mandate.
2. To be appraised on the progress made towards the digitalization programme;
3. To assess the capacity and ability of the Ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services and institutions under its ambit to meet the digitalization deadline;
4. To appreciate challenges being faced in re-alignment of media laws; and
5. To recommend action for improved services by the media institutions.
 

3.0 METHODOLOGY
In undertaking this inquiry the Committee adopted the following methodology.
 

3.1 ORAL EVIDENCE SESSIONS
The Committee held oral evidence sessions with the Minister of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services, Prof. J. N. Moyo, and the Transmedia Chief Executive Officer, Mrs. F Sigudu Matambo. The purpose of the meetings were for the Committee to be appraised with information regarding re-alignment of media laws to the new Constitution, the digitalization programmes for television, and Transmedia operations, financing and challenges. In addition, the Committee was furnished with written submissions.

3.2 On-Site Visits.
As a strategy to get an in-depth practical understanding and appreciation of the physical status of media institutions, the Portfolio Committee on Media, Information and Broadcasting Services conducted fact finding missions to Transmedia on the 12th of February 2014. The Committee managed to tour Transmedia at both their offices at 11 Mainden Drive and ZBC Pockets Hill where some of the transmitters, generators, among other equipment are stationed.

3.3 Capacity Building Work Shops
In an effort to get a solid theoretical framework of the shortfalls of the existing media laws vis-a-vis the new Constitution, the Committee conducted two capacity building workshops. MISA-Zimbabwe hosted a stakeholder consultative meeting on Access to Information, Media  Policy and Regulation in Gweru from the 24th to the 26th of April2014. Media Alliance of  Zimbabwe (MAZ) also hosted a workshop on the state of media in Zimbabwe and international instruments that govern the media Zimbabwe. The Committee extends its appreciation to the two institutions for their timely capacity building intervention.

4.0 COMMITTEE'S FINDINGS
4.1 MINISTRY OF INFORMATION, MEDlA AND BROADCASTING SERVICES.

4.1.1 The Committee was informed by the Minister of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services (MIMBS), Prof. J. N Moyo of the government's position regarding re-alignment of media laws with the new Constitution and an update regarding progress made towards meeting the June 2015 digitalization programme.
 

4.2 RE-ALIGNMENT OF MEDIA LAWS.
The Committee was informed that the MIMBS recognises that the existing media laws have gaps and inadequacies that need to be revisited and plugged in-order to have a legislative framework that creates a conducive environment for development and growth of the information and media industry in Zimbabwe.
4.2.1 The Ministry position was that it was not sufficient to just remove offending clauses from media laws but to address these anomalies against the dictates of democratic dispensation and the new Constitution in a deliberate manner that ensures and safeguard the growth of a vibrant information industry in Zimbabwe.
4.2.2 The Minister stated that the alignment of media laws will also focus on practice such as breaking the media polarity experienced for the past 15 years. He alluded to the fact that media polarisation affects even the country's capacity to access lines of credit from international financial institutions. He noted that media polarisation has negative sovereignty risks, and that media laws should be aligned to the constitution founding values and principles.
4.2.3 The Ministry views the re-alignment of media laws as a process that requires well considered input from all stakeholders in the information and media sector and the public at large.
4.2.4 Major technological developments have brought changes in the information sector. The technological advancement necessitates that the government revisits the legal regime so that there is a governing framework for the orderly growth and nurturing of the information industry as an economic enabler even in implementation of the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-economic Transformation, (ZIM-ASSET)
4.2.5 In an effort to ensure smooth and inclusive re-alignment of media laws to the new Constitution, the MIMBS embarked on a systematic and comprehensive inquiry into the state of the media in Zimbabwe with the establishment of a Panel of Inquiry into the sector, the Information and Media Panel oflnquiry (IMPI).
4.2.6 Among IMPI's wide ranging terms of reference include the following;
1. To inquire into, assess and determine the policy, legal, technological, business and human resources, editorial and institutional adequacy and readiness in the information sector;
2. To inquire into and gauge the level of investments in the sector; to assess the state, scope, arrangements and efficiencies of the information industry, including attendant constraints and shortcomings;
3. To inquire into welfare needs of workers and staffers in the information sector;
4. To inquire into the integrity and adequacy of news and information in relation to the needs of or on the economy; national interest; national security; politics; national processes; citizenry both rural and urban, local and diaspora; rights and justice; global issues and gender, marginalized groups and interest;
5. To assess the capacity and readiness of the sector to compete regionally and globally;
6. To inquire into the opportunities and prospects for a content industry in Zimbabwe;
7. To inquire and evaluate the arrangements for, scope and quality of information/media training proffered in the country; through skills audit, and gaps in the industry;
8. To inquire into and assess the acceptance, adoption, uptake and integration of converged technologies in the information sector;
9. To inquire into the values, ethics and standards of the media sector;
10. To inquire into access, media ownership, media diversity and consumer choices
11. To inquire into media funding strategies and opportunities;
12. To inquire into intra- and inter-media relations and related issues of the media
13. To inquire into how the industry can and should relate to larger national values, programmes and interests;
14. To make recommendations on all of the above matters; and
15. To inquire into any other issues relevant to the industry.

4.2.7 The Committee was informed that to complement its observations, the panel will make use oflessons from regional countries such as South Africa, Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania among others in preparing the report. The panel will be assisted by experts to write the final report which will be made public before the end of 2014.
 

4.3 DIGITALIZATI0N OF TELEVISION PROGRAMME
4.3.1 The Minister informed the Committee that the International Telecommunication Union ( ITU) deadline for digital broadcasting migration from analogue to a new and efficient system based on digital technology is the 1 ih of June 2015. It is a mandatory resolution which must be complied with by all Member states. This means Zimbabwe is under a year from the deadline, beyond which non-compliant
broadcast system will have to switch off or face severe ITU sanctions.
4.3.2 To be digitally compliant by 17 June 2015, Zimbabwe should have digitalized all its 24 existing sites and build another 24 to the same digital format. To date only 10 television sites (Victoria falls, Beitbrodge, Plumtree, Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Masvingo, Mutare, Kenmaur and Kamativi) are digitally compliant, leaving another 14 to complete the process on existing sites and an additional 24 which need to be established.

4.3.3 STUDIOS - Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) as the national public broadcaster is at the centre of the mandatory digitalization programme. This means that ZBC must be capacitated by digitalizing its studios and by ensuring the digital transmission of its content. Old analogue studios will have to be discarded for new digital ones which will ensure that the broadcast signals come out in digital format. All equipment which takes signals from studio to transmitter sites (uplink facilities) will have to be digitally compliant so that the signal remains clean and digital for compatibility.
4.3.4 The Minister, further informed the Committee that there has not been serious progress at ZBC. There are serious challenges at ZBC which require urgent attention. The Corporation is burdened with a cumulative debt of US$61 million. The KPMG Zimbabwe and KPMG South Africa are in a process of finalizing a turnaround strategy for ZBC in anticipation of the digitalization programme. The turnaround will
entail retrenchment, retraining and hiring of new, digitally compliant skills.

4.4 RECEIVERS AND MONITORING EQUIPMENT - The issue of digitalization goes beyond studio and transmitters to home continuum (chain). All television viewing equipments in homes (TV sets) should be able to receive signal from the studio via transmitters. The current analogue television sets would need to be enabled to communicate with the new digital set-up or else phased out in favour of digital setup.
4.4.1 Households would need set-top-boxes (STBs) which allows for continued use of old analogue television sets or throwing away the same old analogue television sets for new ones with in-build digital tuners. This presents a huge costs to the viewing public which should also be avoided. Most migration plans incorporate the use of set-topboxes by making them affordable to the viewers by landing them at subsidized prices.
4.4.2 STATUTORY REGULATION - An additional cost to the digitalization programme relates to the broadcast regulatory function. Whereas in the past the regulator might concentrate on only two services nationally, The new broadcasting dispensation means the regulator (BAZ) has to worry about over eight stations in the case of Zimbabwe. There is need for monitoring equipments which is digitally compliant for
regulatory purposes.

4.5 CONTENT PRODUCTION AND OUTSIDE BROADCAST EQUIPMENT
broadcast includes content expenses and in the eight stations envisaged in Zimbabwe require massive hours of content which is either produced or purchased, mindful of the broadcast content quotas provided for at law. Zimbabwe broadcast law requires that television stations achieve 75% local content programming.
4.5.1 Digitalization entails a concomitant investment in facilities for content production.

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