The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings (ZBH) digitalisation programme has
stalled after the Iranian company involved in the revamping of its
equipment has stopped work demanding payment of US$3 million owed by
the state broadcaster, writes Torby Muturikwa.

ZBH management however, is positive that the Iranians will resume work after "clarification" by the government on the debt.

The ZBH entered into an agreement with the Iranians in 2004.

Sources at the ZBC have said work has been stopped until the national broadcaster clears its debt.

ZBH chief executive officer Henry Muradzikwa said ZBH had paid the money owed , but the Agricultural Rural Development Authority (ARDA), a parastatal, had a debt with the Iranians.  "We have cleared everything on our part. It is ARDA who are yet to pay them. Work will resume soon because everything has been clarified," said Muradzikwa.

Iran’s government is also assisting in the refurbishment and digitalisation of ZBH’s  Bulawayo studios.  The Iranian government provided R21 million for the digitalisation of both the ZBC and ZTV studios at Pockets Hill under phase one of the project.

ZBH has been reeling from acute shortages of foreign currency needed to revamp its equipment and  studios. Most transmitters at the ZBH are old and need upgrading.
Most parts of the country do not get radio and televisions signals and are dependent on Botswana and South African signals.

Meanwhile, the ZBH, through its television company, ZTV, has won the right to broadcast selected English Premiership soccer games every week. The matches would be screened live on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays while delayed matches and highlights would be shown during the week.

However, the ZTV deal involves the B package and does not cover the big matches involving teams such as Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea. Super Sport South Africa has those rights.

Zimbabweans used to watch English matches a decade ago when a local soft drink manufacturer entered into an agreement with the English FA, but soccer fans have seen few live matches since the sponsor withdrew.