Once upon a time in Botswana, only Botswana Television was king of the airwaves. In 2016, the Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) invited interested parties to bid for commercial broadcasting licences for both subscription and free-to-air satellite television that would end the monopoly of television airwaves in Botswana. The first licences were awarded in June 2017 to local organisations which are OVY Network, Maru TV, Access TV and Alphaview TV.
Botswana Television (BTV) is the country’s only home-grown television channel; it is state owned and state controlled. It is also the only television channel available in Botswana that broadcasts local news. Since its birth in 2000 its news output has been criticised for bias towards the ruling Botswana Democratic Party and for a tendency to report on elite groups in society. BTV is also available via the satellite subscription service, DSTV, and can thus theoretically be accessed by viewers with a satellite dish and DSTV decoder throughout the country.
Samuel Moshodi, the Chief of Finance and Operations at OVY Network said Batswana should be ready for a network that will take the country by storm. “The motto for the channel says it all; Set the Mood Apart.” Whatever mood you are in, OVY network will satisfy that. Be it the mood for music, for news or entertainment all is packaged within the network. Although the new broadcaster is 100 percent Batswana youth owned, the aims of the channel far transcends across all age groups. “The broadcaster is meant for household consumption offering premium content on freeview basis that is, not paid for, however the eventual idea is to add in acquired content which viewers will have to pay for.
Already OVY network has made an impact in the employment of the youth in the country. With a complement of 20 fulltime staff and an additional 20 freelancers the job creation is telling. “Batswana should watch out for OVY because it is the next big thing in Africa,” said Moshodi. Viewers can access the OVY channels through the Free-to-Air decoders readily available in the country and on NigComSat 45 Degrees East.
A bouquet of programmes which focus on performing arts such as music, dance and poetry, and other cultural exploration and presentation which are a form of “cultural reflection” will also be offered. News and dramas as well as business and finance programmes are in the offing. National events, such as Independence Day and President’s Day and other international commemorations such as World AIDS Day will be scheduled for special programming on OVY TV.
Another new entrant Maru TV said they are there to save Batswana especially the youth. “This is a youth entertainment channel, said Ali Mwimbe, the station’s CEO. Maru is poised for a slot on DSTV come the 1st of March 2018. According to Maru TV’s communications department, some of their programmes include celebrity topics, morning shows and news both in Setswana and English as well as a techno oriented programme called TechCrunch.
Maru has also been doing well in the youth employment department with more than 15 youths having secured jobs at the broadcaster. With their association with Multichoice and being on DSTV, MaruTV boss said they hope to have the first 24hr news channel that will be available across Africa and beyond. “We want to be the first channel from Botswana to offer a 24-hour news channel in the mould of Aljazeera, SABC and CNN, he explained. Over a fortnight ago officers from BOCRA, the regulatory authority paid a spot check visit to familiarize themselves with the goings on at the new stations. The findings have not been made available to Gazette Business even though an effort was made to get a comment from their office.
In his new book, called News in Botswana: Themes in contemporary journalism, Richard Rooney observed that BTV was somehow biased in its reporting. “A survey of news bulletins demonstrates that BTV news promotes the policies of the government with the almost total exclusion of opposition voices; it is not impartial and reports are not balanced. It concludes that BTV news is not fulfilling the aims it set itself which include the necessity to inform people about events within and outside the country, to interpret such events and wherever possible suggest appropriate approaches to them and to do this by providing balanced, credible and professionally-tailored programmes containing fair and balanced reporting,” he added.
The only other free-to-air television station, eBotswana, a relation of e.tv in South Africa, is broadcast in the capital city Gaborone and the surrounding 60km. eBotswana, previously the Gaborone Broadcasting Company, relaunched in 2010 and is 49 percent owned by Sabido, a South African media company.
In the broadcasting sector, there are two state-owned national radio stations, three national privately-owned and eight foreign stations in Botswana, along with one state-owned and one privately-owned television stations.