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Committee pleads for US$100m digitalisation funds

By Daniel Chigundu

The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Information, Media and Broadcasting Services has appealed to both treasury and Parliament for the allocation of US$100 million to TransMedia for the completion of the digitalisation program.

Digitalisation which has missed both the regional and international deadlines has so far gobbled about US$40 million and requires an additional US$100 million to be fully completed.

Failure to complete the project has forced the country to operate on both analogue and digital platforms which are expensive to sustain given the financial challenges faced by the government.

Committee chairperson Prince Dubeko Sibanda told legislators, ministers and stakeholder attending the pre-budget seminar in Bulawayo that “I am worried about the budget allocation to TransMedia and I will justify as I go on, I don’t mind what is given to New Ziana and Zimbabwe Television School because as we stay on in this committee we will together with the ministry need to see whether some of the parastatals that are under their purview are really necessary or not.

“(US$100million) what this figure is speaking to is this, there is a program called digitalisation that was started by the ministry already the parastatals that fall under it and TransMedia require about US$100million for it to be able to complete the project of digitalisation.

“We know that the Ministry of Finance did not allocate that but we come here as a committee appealing not only to the treasury but also to Parliament to consider that this US$100m be accommodated either within the budget or somehow outside the budget but what we need is that US$100million to be released,” he said.

The Binga North legislator said the justification for the releasing of the requested US$100 million is that “almost US$40 million has already been ploughed into the project of digitalisation by the government and the equipment and machinery that were bought with that US$40 million is simply there now and is not functioning.

“And the problem with technology is that it is easily overtaken by time and therefore the fear of your committee is that if US$100m is not allocated for the budget of 2019 into TransMedia for digitalisation, there is a high like that those machines bought by the US$40 million might go to waste because they might become obsolete before they are used.

“So for us to gain the advantage of the US$40 million that is already invested as capital into that institution, it is important that we finish the job and make sure that the US$100million is put into place to ensure that digitalisation is fully functional,” he said.

According to TransMedia chief executive officer Florence Sigudu-Matambo, if the project is completed, it will help open the airwaves to 12 more television stations six which have been earmarked for the private sector while six will be given to troubled state broadcaster ZBC.

Zimbabwe currently has one television station which is controlled by the government while various radio station licences have been given to people with close links to the ruling party Zanu PF.

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