- Organise your own broadcast coverage, says Molefhi
- LOO denied coverage on SONA response
This week, the national assembly has heard that since its inception, State owned broadcaster, Botswana Television (BTV) has covered all State of the Nation Address (SONA) and all Budget Speech presentations live, but has never covered responses to the said presentations by the Leaders Of Opposition (LOO) or Leaders of the Minority Opposition.
Selibe Phikwe West legislator, Dithapelo Keorapetse asked Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration Nonofo Molefhi if he was aware of that fact and wanted to know the reasons for this public policy posture and whether or not it was fair in line with democratic principles. Keorapetse also wanted to know what precludes the LOO to from now henceforth privately or with his party arrange for live coverage of his speeches in parliament to make his alternative views reach the public.
Molefhi said he was aware of the long standing tradition to broadcast the SONA by the State President and Budget Speech by Minister of Finance and Economic Development Kenneth Matambo live on BTV.
“However BTV does not televise the debates on the SONA and the Budget Speech,” Molefhi said in response. In his defense, Molefhi said the practice of not covering the subsequent debates applies to contributions coming from both sides of the isle.
“For example, we do not cover the Leader of the House’s summation of the SONA debate or the delivery of individual Committee of Supply speeches.
He further advised for opposition leaders to organise their own broadcast coverage.
Previously, BTV has been accused of only covering the ruling BDP, while opposition parties were deliberately shunned. According to a 2017 finding by the Ombudsman, the BDP gets 82 percent coverage from BTV, whilst opposition parties combined were given only 18 percent coverage. The report also called for the national broadcaster to be regulated by legislation, creating an independent organ alongside the likes of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) to mention but a few. The Ombudsman wanted timeslots to be fairly allocated to all political establishments, so they fairly disseminate their political messages and programmes to the general public. BTV is currently a unit under the Office of the President (OP), after former President Ian Khama took it under his wing when he assumed office in 2008. The status quo has continued under President Mokgweetsi Masisi. Keorapetse’s question follows another similar one, after he asked the Minister if BTV will comply to review their coverage policy and abide to recommendations by the Ombudsman. Molefhi said he has instructed management of BTV to review their coverage policy.