Access to information is a fundamental human right whose realisation and fulfilment rests on the Government’s ability to provide necessary enablers, including opening up of the airwaves to empower communities and ensuring radio and television signals could be received everywhere, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said yesterday.
Speaking at a strategic planning workshop organised by national signal carrier Transmedia Corporation in Harare, she said the Government had made strides in providing radio licences to communities and others in broadcasting but installation of requisite broadcasting equipment has been slow.
Transmedia, as a national signal carrier, should come up with all-encompassing strategies that give citizens, regardless of geographical location, access to television and radio signals for the attainment of Vision 2030, she said.
“I say this because without access to information that outlines national development strategies for all, communities cannot move in step with national objectives. No vision is attainable without the necessary buy-in of the majority of our citizens,” Minister Mutsvangwa said.
“I, therefore, expect that your thrust today will focus on servicing the rural areas, where the majority of our people reside, so that we completely eliminate areas without TV and radio signals.”
The minister said the Government remained committed to the expansion and reach of quality signals, and has brought on board more into the broadcasting sector to fulfil citizens’ right to information. The outbreak of Covid-19 had made dissemination of information even more crucial as communities should always be apprised on preventive measures.
Transmedia, therefore, is expected to continue the capacitation and operationalisation, not only of community radio stations, but also of campus radio stations in line with the expectations of Education 5.0 to merge acquired knowledge with practical skills. Such an inclusive scope for development, Minister Mutsvangwa said, makes it imperative for Transmedia to keep the eye on the ball in terms of technical support.
“Transmedia, as the Government’s technical arm, must demonstrate in its strategic planning, the urgency of fulfilling and meeting the obligations enshrined in these rights to our citizens,” she said. The need to navigate complexities of technology convergence, she highlighted, should compel the signal carrier to be in constant dialogue with other players, including those in telecommunications, the digital economy and banking.
She implored the organisation to come up with initiatives to address pressing challenges such as load-shedding, legacy debts, underfunding, brain drain, theft and vandalism of copper-based equipment, and to operate within good corporate governance tenets to achieve its objectives.
“Ideas must be incubated to derive immediate value from the recently licensed free-to-air commercial television stations and the newly commissioned digital broadcasting platform,” Minister Mutsvangwa said.
“The Corporation must also unlock funding from public-private partnerships on investment platforms such as the ongoing Expo 2020 Dubai.”
Alternative sources of power, preferably solar energy, should be sought to mitigate the impact of power outages, while human capital retention strategies ought to be devised.
Minister Mutsvangwa indicated that although the $200 million allocated to the corporation in the 2022 National Budget as a capital grant was inadequate, it testified to the Government’s commitment to support the signal carrier.
Contributing virtually during the same occasion, Transmedia board chairperson Ambassador Mary Mubi said the strategic planning workshop was a learning slate for the organisation in its endeavour to fulfil its mandate and obligation to the people of Zimbabwe.
“We are cognisant of the fact that as Transmedia we are operating in an environment in which technology is changing, and that the media space is also changing,” said Ambassador Mubi.
“We are also cognisant of the fact that there are arising opportunities, and challenges that have arisen in recent times, which we need to factor into our programme.”