2017 Ombudsman report found that BDP enjoys 82% coverage, opposition 18%
Answering questions in parliament, by MP for Selebi Phikwe West Dithapelo Keorapetse, Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration Nonofo Molefhi revealed that he has instructed the management of state owned television station, Botswana Television (BTV) to review their coverage policy.
According to a 2017 finding by the Ombudsman, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) gets 82 percent of BTv’s coverage, whilst opposition parties combined were given a total of 18 percent coverage. The Ombudsman’s report confirmed persistent complaints by the public and opposition parties of bias by BTV, despite their obligation to give the public fair and equal coverage of all political parties. In light of its findings, the Ombudsman recommended that BTv ought to be regulated by legislation, creating an independent organ along the lines of South Africa’s South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) and the English British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).
The Ombudsman further recommended that time slots ought to be allocated to all political parties to ensure that they are able to equally convey their political messages and programmes to the public. The Report was directed at Botswana Television for immediate implementation under section 8 of the Ombudsman Act.
Responding to Selebi Phikwe West MP Dithapelo Keorapetse’s question in parliament last week, on whether the new administration has implemented the Ombudsman’s recommendations, Minister Molefhi stated the BTV is mandated to disseminate all matters that are interesting, or recent happenings and important events taking place around the country.
“Let me preface my response by observing that, as a Public Service Broadcaster, Botswana Television (BTV) has a mandate to promote and publicize Government programmes, projects and national events for the benefit of the citizenry.,” he told Parliament.
‘Btv further espouses high journalism ideals, including accurate, balanced, fair and equitable reporting. This also includes the dissemination of news, which is defined as current events, interesting, recent happenings and important information,” added the Minister with oversight of Btv, in direct conflict with the findings of the Report that had found that BTv had not provided equitable reporting.
The Minister further said that he has asked BTV management to review their coverage to ensure that the station adheres to its mandate and complies with the Ombudsman’s Report, “In the above context I have asked the management of BTV to review their coverage in light of the findings of the Ombudsman so as to ensure that the station adheres to its mandate for fair, balanced and equitable.”