Botswana: Where is Black Earth TV?

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It was supposed to be up and running by now, airing its television signals from Botswana to the rest of the continent. Just where is the pay television, which was expected to end Multichoice's monopoly in Africa?

The project was envisaged to start operations early this year at the latest but the much-hyped pay television, which was to be based in Botswana, is yet to take root since the bidders, Black Earth Communications (BEC), of South Africa was awarded the provisional licence in April last year.

And the licence holders have not come back to brief the anxious public. National Broadcasting Board (NBB) secretary Dan Mogwera said in an interview that BEC had not come back to update them on their next move. "We can cannot say whether they are still in business or not. They are best positioned to answer that question," he said when asked whether the NNB had heard anything from BEC.

The project started with much fanfare but the excitement has since waned. Andrew Jones, the man who was frequently in the news, hyping the pay TV service on Friday told Monitor that his plans have been frustrated by lack of interest among potential investors in Botswana. He said it was supposed to be entirely dependent on the investors buying into it. Jones accepts that it has taken long for his company to set up since they made noise about the project they hailed as "the next big thing".

He was hoping to raise at least US$20-25 million, or nearly P150 million, for the television project. "That is the start-up capital we need to get it rolling," he said from Johannesburg, where the company is currently involved in film productions. Jones said his efforts to court Botswana potential investors did not bear fruit. He said he made presentations to financial institutions, and individuals but with little success. He said if "we can find that money now, the project would start within 60 to 90 days".

After claiming in a Mmegi interview last year that they wanted to open the pay television in Botswana because they were denied the licence in South Africa, it has emerged that the same company had applied for a licence in South Africa. Jones admitted that they had applied for a South African licence but were still awaiting a reply. "We are not the only ones, there are quite a number of applicants, and we are one of them," he said.

Mmegi/The Reporter (Gaborone), 21 May 2007