Although many across Botswana’s fledgling film and TV industry are resentful that they were engaged to legitimise involvement of accomplished American entertainer Steve Harvey whose relevance to the country they question, the hope is strong that there will be total transformation of public broadcast television and electronic media in Botswana that will result in growth, jobs and creation of exportable high quality local content that people want to watch.

The contractor engaged to refurbish a Botswana Television (Btv) auditorium is on site and has begun work, The Botswana Gazette has established.
The P56 million project is part of the government’s attempt to improve local content in a P470 million consultancy to be conducted by American company Steve Harvey Global. The Steve Harvey Group is expected to provide technical expertise in high level content production across various genres such as reality shows, sitcoms, talk shows and game shows.

These will be aimed at empowering Batswana producers with skills to produce at the highest levels that can attract international audience’s appeal.
The Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Department of Information and Broadcasting, Oshinka Tsiang, has told The Botswana Gazette that as the refurbishment begins, the process of contracting with the consultant is ongoing and that it is expected that Steve Harvey will start work on the consultancy as soon as refurbishing of the auditorium is completed.

“A call will then be made through a tendering process for local producers to present concepts in various genres from which the best concepts will be picked for mentorship by the Steve Harvey Group,” Tsiang said.

He stated that the Department of Broadcasting Services has engaged the local industry through meetings with Botswana Film Association (BFA) and a feasibility study that was conducted last year. He added that the input of industry players has guided the drafting of the Invitation To Tender (ITT) that outlines what the consultant is expected to deliver.
But BFA has expressed dissatisfaction with appointment of Steve Harvey Global. The Chairman of the association, Prince Monna, says BFA is adamant there are skilled creatives available locally who can match Steve Harvey to develop content for Btv. Monna told The Botswana Gazette that they believe no real skills will be derived from this initiative, especially in film production. These are some of the concerns that were expressed to Btv in the engagement that Tsiang has confirmed.

The meeting, according to Monna, came about against the backdrop of the tender.
“Engagement with the local industry prior to this development would have led to a different appointment with different modalities. We believe that Steve Harvey will not give us any skills upgrade compared to the skills that local creatives possess,” he said, adding that they are being used to legitimise a decision already taken.
He asserted that they aimed to align themselves with the tender after realising that the government was going ahead with it despite their concerns. This was done by having several meetings to try and scope with the likes of Btv regarding what it should look like and how it could be rolled out once Steve Harvey begins his work.

According to Monna, points raised at those meetings included a call for employment creation through the tender. He said what seems to have not been factored in through the appointment was lack of commerce where the film and TV value chain could be developed for a lasting impact on performance of the industry. Monna iterated that other aspects of this deal which can be fine-tuned are distribution of local content internationally, with Harvey playing the role of investor, and not competitor.

Meanwhile, the Chairman of Creative Arts and Media Sector at Business Botswana, Tonderai Tsara, says Harvey’s invitation to tender via direct procurement has been topical for some time. As industry, Tsara added, players were faced with the choice of standing on the sidelines or getting involved “and we chose to get involved and created a reference team that made contributions that will shape the scope of this initiative to ensure maximum benefit for Botswana.”
“The Creative Sector Reference Team included Business Botswana, Botswana Screen Society, Botswana Film Association, Botswana Musicians Union, HRDC’s Creative Sector Sub-Committee, the Writers Association of Botswana, industry activists and academia,” he explained.

The team made contributions on policy, adequate funding, procurement and commissioning, pricing and exploitation, skills and development, regulation and making local programmes exportable, among other things. “So we are ready and eager to see what the final plan for Steve Harvey Global’s involvement looks like and hopefully we will soon see total transformation of public broadcast television and electronic media in Botswana in a way that creates jobs and growth, as well as extremely high quality and exportable content that people want to watch,” Tsara said.