State-owned Botswana Television and RB2 are operating without licences in contravention of the country’s national broadcasting laws on the basis that they cannot be classified as either public broadcasters nor do they meet the common expectations of State broadcasters.
This is despite close to five years of existence of the licensing authority, the National Broadcasting Board (NBB).
The absence of a national policy framework on broadcasting seems to render the NBB inoperative and incapable of pressurizing Government mouthpieces to comply despite the length of time taken since they made their applications.
Dr Masego Mpotokwane, Chairperson of the NBB, confirmed that the two broadcasters are still to meet some specific requirements to qualify for licensing.
“They have since submitted their applications for consideration, and the Board is still looking into them in line with stipulated principles,” he said.
The Board continues to engage the broadcasters concerning certain aspects of their requirements to be issued licences.
“But given certain peculiarities, you can only maintain a gentle approach and hope that things finally get to the desired end,” stated the NBB Chair.
For example, the fact that BTv and RB2 are State Broadcasters causes one to expect them to operate as non-profit making organizations.
On the contrary, they are partly commercial ventures who do advertising and, in the case of BTv, that includes hiring out some of their premises for financial gain.
As a consequence of this and a number of other factors, there tends to develop a situation where it becomes difficult for the NBB to just make arbitrary decisions on the admissibility or otherwise of the duo’s applications, stated Mpotokwane.
Banyana Segwe, Btv Acting Director, stated that as far as she is concerned, they have submitted to the NBB all that they were asked to bring and are accordingly awaiting the Board’s favourable response. Although Segwe does not deny that it has been long since they filed their application, she is categorical that no special negotiations or exchanges are going on or ever took place between her department and the NBB.
Segwe’s response notwithstanding, evidence raised by the Sunday Standard investigations indicate that her department and RB2 had, over and above other specific conditions, failed to submit their applications within the time frame prescribed by the regulating body.
In recognition of the fact that Btv and RB2 existed before the introduction of the Broadcasting Act, provision was made that they could submit applications within six months of the NBB’s existence, and further that, in the interim, they shall be held in the same regard as registered broadcasters subject to their complying with the stated conditions.
This applied to all other similar service providers. All others have followed the statutes, while Government institutions continue to maintain a defiant posture against the law.