State Media: What is so special about DStv? Why do they get the preferential treatment they get? Are they different from other “foreign” companies operating in Zimbabwe? Why should they always be treated with kid gloves?
DStv is no longer the “lifestyle” option it used to be in the ‘90s into the turn of the millennium. It is now a basic need in just about every home, largely thanks to poor programming by ZBC.
Depsite this change in stature of DStv, many things have remained largely unchanged.
Some relief was obtained, albeit briefly, when Go-TV came in the middle of the last decade before it was quickly annihilated by DStv.
Many television viewers, tired of the being “robbed” by DStv, saw the entry of Go-TV. But today we still wait for a game-changer on the television landscape.
Though DStv prides itself for offering value-for-money packages for different pockets, many people are of the view that the whole set-up is nothing but a scam disguised as “bouquets”.
We will revert to the issue of content a bit later.
Let us first busy ourselves with why DStv behaves as if it is a government-within-a-government and ask ourselves why rules, laws and other guidelines governing other companies fall away when it comes to them.
Many might remember how during the days of the Zim dollar, we were the only country in the region required to make DStv payments in foreign currency.
Other countries, with equally weak currencies like Zambia (kwacha) and Mozambique (meticais) were allowed to make payments in those currencies. And they still do.
In Botswana, they pay for DStv in pulas, the Zambians do so in kwachas and the Mozambicans in meticais.
And looking at the exchange rates to the US dollar, as of Friday Zambians were paying US$86 for the premium package whilst Mozambicans were paying US$60. The charge was US$58 in Bostwana US$59 in South Africa.
As for Zimbabweans, well, they are paying US$72 for the same bouquet!
Whilst Zambians might cry that their packages are more expensive, they have the consolation that they can pay in their own currency.
The usual chorus is “different operating environments”, “ease of doing business” and whatever other excuse the PR people can think of.
Yes, the reasons make sense, but something still stinks.
As you read this, platforms like EcoCash and TeleCash have more or less ceased offering settlements for DStv.
If you want to pay for DStv using EcoCash, you have to open a South African rand account. The bond note, which is legal tender, is not being accepted by DStv and its agencies across Zimbabwe!
If multi-national companies like Total, which is into petrochemicals, is accepting bond notes, doesn’t it boggle the mind why DStv – a television service – is allowed to dictate which currency to use?
All said and done, DStv does not rank among the country’s top priorities – and should not.
Imagine what would become of this economy if fuel-importing companies all said they would not accept bond notes? What of all the other importers of essentials?
But they aren’t doing that. Only DStv is. And Government is allowing it! If DStv stopped broadcasting today, the world would not end. ZBC would be happy. We would not be too thrilled. But life would go on.
So why do they demand hard currencies when more important service and goods providers do not?
And now to content.
If you are a television junkie, chances are that within a week you will have watched all that interests you on DStv and then have three weeks of paid-for boredom stretching out ahead of you!
Different people subscribe for different reasons, but sport is the major drawcard for most subscribers. And yes, the sports coverage is largely good. As is the news variety.
But the movie selection leaves a lot to be desired, hence spending a week in front of the television is bound to exhaust all available films, plus the repeats.
As for the rest of the channels, to include the documentary channels or the reality series, or even cartoon networks, repeats are the order of the day.
So why are we forced to pay DStv in US dollars?