Botswana: New Pay TV Exploits Legal Loophole

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The National Broadcasting Board (NBB) has said they have no official dealings with GTV - the recently established pay TV. NBB chairman Dr Masego Mpotokwane told Mmegi that so far, they have only known about the TV through newspapers. "We are not aware of it except through a newspaper article and until we know the facts we have no response," he said.

GTV, a pay television established by former Multichoice Botswana manager, Billy Sekgororoane is scheduled to go on air in August. Sekgororoane has said they will use a court ruling that favoured Botswana's only pay TV service provider Multichoice to start operations without referring to NBB. The judgment said the NBB had no powers to regulate services similar to those offered by Multichoice Botswana.

"The dilemma faced by the Board (NBB) is easy to see. It has been given duties and responsibilities but not the teeth to implement and enforce. Quite simply the relevant legislation has not kept pace with advances in technology. The only regulating authorisation the Board can issue is a broadcasting license. There is most certainly need to regulate various aspects of the broadcasting industry but this need cannot be met by arbitrarily using the only weapon at the disposal of the Board to fight every conceivable situation, without creating absurd and untenable results," the court ruled.

By last week, the NBB could not clarify what it is doing to ensure that more companies rendering similar services like Multichoice do not just come and up in Botswana without a licence. The board did not explain if it has already started putting measures in place to regulate services offered by companies like Multichoice. However Mpotokwane told Mmegi that they have appealed the court ruling and the case is up for hearing on July 19. "Let us wait for the outcome," he said.

(Mmegi/The Reporter (Gaborone), 13 July 2007)