…IDEATIONS GoddyChitty @Large by Godfrey Chitalu
FEW years ago, during digital migration my brother and I decided to design and manufacture a set top box or decoder that would cater for free to air television channels. We knew that members of the public might be shortchanged if gurus like ourselves did not put our act together.
In our mistaken belief and having met several partners and government officials, we were sure that our country might have a sizable number of free to air channels. We also hinged our hopes on all educational channels, ZNBC and Parliament TV to be free from encryption encumbrances.
The digital migration policy of 2014 proposed that digital terrestrial set top boxes must guarantee that free to air program channels are accessible on all decoders across the signal distributors. When you analyze the current set up, it is evident that content service providers and signal distributors are abrogating this. In their mistaken belief only one of the three ZNBC’s is free to air.
The Lloyd decoder we patented and registered with ZICTA was meant to fill the expected void when the digital migration act came to implementation stage. Today both the content providers and signal distributors are happy about the encrypted status quo. It perfectly lines their pockets while the citizens are denied access to pertinent information.
I remember during those days giving a brand new Lloyd branded digital decoder to the Minister of Information with a request that whoever was handling the digital migration should leave room for progressive suggestions.
I also spoke to him about how locally we can empower young people to be decoder technicians instead of allowing a signal distributor to also handle set top boxes. Infact we argued and proposed that allowing Bambazonke public and private signal distributors and cum decoder manufacturer was shooting ourselves in the foot. A sample of our decoder is still in that public office.
When the new signal distributor came in place, it rendered the whole free to air notion useless as all channels were quickly encrypted. Rather than crying over spilt milk and losses from the hundreds of decoders we put on the market, my request is for more educational channels to be unencrypted.
Few days ago I visited a home in one of our townships, who had access only to ZNBC TV by default. They simply had no money for extra channels but their school girl children could have benefited from educational TV. Why bundle educational channels with commercial and sports channels? Today any person wishing to broadcast has to pass through the public or private signal distributors who conveniently encrypt channels as they wish.
There is need for a consensus building process that should give a window for free educational channels. There are several educational channels that are available if we put our acts together. Remember Arithmetic is Arithmetic, regardless of the broadcast source. We need to craft laws that will help our youthful population benefit from various educational channels within and without.
I find it strange that in our country we have allowed whoever to encrypt even otherwise free channels like BBC and its allied educational channels. Our EduTV should, alongside others form a vital bouquet for use during this COVID 19 perilous period.
I would like to see a standalone free to air educational bouquet that is not bundled with pricey sports and news channels. The bouquet should be free! For a start we need to push our legislators to look at enacting laws that open up all educational TV including Parliament TV. We need to watch all educational channels whether we subscribe or not!
The author is a social commentator who writes for pleasure.
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