Rwanda Television wants to build up its local content output

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Most of Africa’s small state-owned television stations have a low skills base and are poorly financed with a legacy of extremely old equipment. If African public sector broadcasting is to survive as anything more than Vanity TV for the Governments that fund it, it needs to break the current mould and generate content that might be shared or sold to its peers. On a recent visit to Rwanda, Russell Southwood interviewed the Director of Rwanda Television Kije Mugisha about these issues.

When was Rwanda Television set up?

Originally it was set up in 1979 as a Department of the Ministry doing production but it became a television station in 1995 after the war.

When did you join?

I joined in June 2006 and up until that point I had worked as a media consultant in Rwanda.

What’s the balance of local and international programming?

Currently 85-90% of programming is international. Most local programmes are shown between 6-10pm in the evenings. We’re trying to empower and strengthen our production unit at the moment. We have to step up our equipment resources and get experts to help teach how to carry out effective TV production and post-production. Capacity building is the key. We have 100 employees in all.

We want to do this so that programmes are not only available for viewers of Rwanda Television but also outside the country. We want to show a range of Rwandan issues to people elsewhere in Africa and around the world. We want to show good governance, peace and reconciliation and progress. We need to let people know of the investment opportunities that come from the President’s strong ICT initiative. Also to let tourists hear about how there are lots of opportunities for eco-tourist packages.

Is there a training programming to address the need to build production skills?

Currently there is no training plan. However, we sort out for journalists to go to networks in Africa and elsewhere at least a few times a year. We need an in-house training plan and more industry training outside of the Station.

How many people does the station reach?

It’s nationwide but we’re still trying to assess how strong the signal is in different parts of the country. Some parts of the country don’t receive any signal at all. There’s difficulties because of the country’s topography. There are lots of hills between the capital Kigali and the country’s borders. There’s a network of 21 masts and we also have satellite capacity but it’s not currently in use. However, our sister station Radio Rwanda reaches 100% of the country.

We do not currently have any audience survey work but we’re planning to do one very soon. But we estimate that we reach around half a million people in Kigali and perhaps 3% of people outside Kigali. There are an estimated 7 people per household and 300,000 households in Kigali. On the other hand, Radio Rwanda reaches more or less all of the country’s 9 million population.

When are you going digital?

We have had talks about going digital and we’ve been doing testing with DVBT.

How much does the Station spend and what are you spending on international programming?

There hasn’t been a specific budget for radio and TV. I have a rough idea of overall spending but there are no clear estimates. I’ve no idea what we’re spending on bought-in programming. Our biggest issue in spending terms is our equipment. The broadcast equipment is 16 years old and really needs to be replaced. We’d like to modernise and use the new technologies, particularly in the rural areas. We do not have studios outside of Kigali but we get news from correspondents across the country.

Is there any competition for the TV channel?

There’s no Rwandan Pay-TV channel but DSTV is here.

What about community radio stations?

There’s only a handful of them at the moment but there’s a plan to add two every year for the next two years. This will come out of our budget and be supported by the Ministry of Finance.