- “These are free-to-air services, there is no monthly subscription. Once you buy the decoder you are done..." - Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe.
MEMBERS of the public are not going to be able to view newly licensed television stations using their analogue television sets and will have to buy decoders which will enable access, the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) has said.
BAZ last week announced that Zimpapers Television Network (ZTN) and five other television stations were awarded national commercial free-to-air television licences.
The other stations are Rusununguko Media (Pvt) Ltd trading as NRTV, Jester Media trading as 3K TV, Acacia Media Group trading as Kumbe TV, Fair Talk Communications trading as Ke Yona TV and Channel Dzimbahwe trading as Channel D.
The stations have 18 months to go on air or risk losing their licences.
BAZ Technical Engineer Matthias Chakanyuka said without set top boxes the public will be left behind.
“The new stations will be on the digital network which means the transmitted signal will be a digital signal.
“Most members of the public have analogue TV sets which means that they need something which will convert the signal from digital to analogue. This can be achieved by the use of decoders or set top boxes,” he said
The engineer said BAZ is looking at licensing more players who will sell the decoders to avoid a monopoly.
“These decoders are not yet on the market but what we have done as BAZ is, we have started identifying people who want to supply these decoders to the market.
“What we want is a situation whereby members of the public are able to go to any shop and buy anywhere in an open market. But we need a type that is compatible to our system.
“We have called on those who want to supply to approach and register with us and bring in a sample that we can approve then they can start distributing,” said Eng Chakanyuka.
He said decoders will be imported as they could not find any companies offering to manufacture them locally adding they have no subscriptions.
“These are free-to-air services, there is no monthly subscription. Once you buy the decoder you are done.
“But those with digital television sets they can actually receive the signals right away because our signal won’t be encrypted but when you talk of a digital television it is a TV set with a digital tuner. It is different from a flat screen,” he said.
Eng Chakanyuka said the decoders will be affordable to members of the public with a retail price of not more than US$15.
He said the coming in of the new television stations will help address signal challenges which were experienced in some parts of the country.
“Under the digitalisation project we have installed a number of transmitters countrywide and areas like Lupane and Binga which have never received television signals since independence will be able to receive services.
“When we launch, those areas which do not receive terrestrial signals will use satellite. They will just have a decoder and dish anywhere in the country then you receive but where there is a transmitter you only need an antenna and the set box and that is all,” he said.
The engineer said the decoders will have all the channels that will be on the digital platform as its a universal decoder which can just be used to receive free-to-air services which will be available in Zimbabwe.
He said ZBC will have to apply to make use of its six reserved channels and it must meet certain conditions before they make use of them.
“If they want to come on board for their reserved channels they will need to come with their proposals to BAZ and we scrutinise their business proposal, their technical proposal, their programming proposal if it makes sense then we can accept them but if it is not satisfactory we will ask them to go back to the drawing board and make sure that they meet expected standards .
“But also, from a regulatory point of view we would also want to see their potential in terms of roll out if they are in a position to launch six channels or not. So, we will need to sit down and discuss with them and see if it can happen or not.”
Eng Chakanyuka said there is still room for more television stations and those with interest can be doing their research.
“This is not the end of the world for someone who wants to have a television licence because on our digital platform we have a capacity for 24 channels but the network which we rolled out can carry 12 channels but that can be expanded to accommodate more players.
“Those interested can study and see where the gaps are and come up with interesting and unique programming which will meet the needs of the people which the current stations will be failing to fill,” he said.
Turning to the community radio stations Eng Chakanyuka said BAZ is in the process of gathering information on applications for community radio stations before issuing licences.
“We are in the process of information gathering and confirmation to find out if whoever applied for the radio stations is actually a representative of the community and the information, they sent us. We have done three areas now, Nyanga, Mbembesi and Manama in Gwanda and in the next weeks we will finish the rest,” he said.
He said BAZ will award a minimum of three licences before year close and the rest at the beginning of 2021.
“We are at confirmation of information before we can issue the licences.
“We called for 10 areas but we received 20 applications meaning there are more than one application in some areas, so we will have to look at the information which they have provided and if there are gaps we will assist them and fill them so that their papers comply with the licences which will be issued once we are satisfied,” he said. Chronicle ■