Whose TV Is It Anyway?: An Examination of the Shift towards Satellite Television in Zimbabwe

Whose TV Is It Anyway?: An Examination of the Shift towards Satellite Television in Zimbabwe

Rick Malleus (Seattle University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-591-9.ch007
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The thesis of this chapter is that the rise in popularity of satellite television in Zimbabwe was not mainly driven by the capabilities of the new technology, but by dissatisfaction with Zimbabwe Television (ZTV). The chapter will begin with a discussion that problematises the idea of what constitutes new technology in the African and Zimbabwean contexts. The focus then moves to the content broadcast locally and how a segment of the Zimbabwean population have turned away from ZTV to have their media needs and gratifications met from satellite TV. There is an extended discussion of propaganda and quality of programming, which are hypothesized as the driving factors for satellite TV’s rise in popularity. A discussion of the cultural influences that satellite TV programming has on the Zimbabwean viewing public is included, and the chapter will conclude with some thoughts on the future of satellite television in Zimbabwe if changes in local broadcast TV programming come about.
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It is important to remember that in Zimbabwe, as in many African countries, a large portion of the population get their information and entertainment from radio. This chapter however focuses on satellite TV, but readers should note that there is a larger radio than TV audience in Zimbabwe.

Having made that distinction clear, it is important now to consider the idea of what constitutes a “new ICT” in the Zimbabwean context. Why? The term new ICT is often used as if the definition is clear and universal. What needs to be recognized is that the term is neither clear nor universal and it is crucial to understand this in order to locate Zimbabweans on the spectrum of ICT exposure. It is this understanding that underpins this chapter’s inclusion in a text on new ICTs.

While perhaps a little overstated, Polikanov and Abramova’s (2003) point that “…high-brow analysts should not forget that many Africans have never seen a TV set…” (p. 50) is germane. Africa Business’ Tom Nevin makes a similar point when he argues that the “continent strives under a paucity of ICT infrastructure with many people having never even made a telephone call” (p24). The idea that to some, a telephone would be a new technology, while to others a TV would be a new technology is often not one that is considered when new ICTs are discussed. Most discussions of new ICTs focus on the latest technological developments in that realm, which most often occur in developed countries with strong and widespread ICT infrastructures. While this is not wrong to do, it is also not an accurate global interrogation of the notion of what a new ICT is.

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