Botswana: BESTV Gets Broadcast Licence - at Last

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It has finally happened - Black Earth Communications (BEC) - has received its Satellite Broadcasting Service Licence from the Botswana Telecommunication Authority (BTA). BEC, which will be trading as Black Entertainment Satellite Television (BEStv), applied for a Satellite Broadcasting Service Licence, in 2005, and were ultimately given a provisional licence in 2006, with pre-conditions for licensing before the actual licence could be awarded. The pre-conditions have finally been met as the recipients finally received their licence from the National Broadcasting Board (NBB) at the BTA offices in Gaborone last week.

Speaking at the event, the NBB Chairperson Masego Mpotokwane affirmed that BEStv has finally met the pre-conditions stipulated in the provisional offer hence the board's decision to award the licence.

"Once NBB has awarded a licence, we make sure that services get off the ground. Our licence conditions are clear with regards to the failure to meet stipulated deadlines by licensees. It is now up to the broadcaster to ensure that they responsibly carry out their mandate," he noted.

The NBB chairperson acknowledged that while there are many challenges facing subscription satellite broadcasting, there is room for healthy and rewarding competition hence NBB's decision to license these kinds of services on a case by case basis provided the applicants meet NBB conditions.

He also noted that the viewers have a role to play in ensuring quality and responsible broadcast content, explaining that it is important for viewers to give broadcasters and the board feedback, in terms of offensive content or any other unsuitable material.

"I want to emphasise that broadcasting is a powerful tool. It should always be used for good intentions. We expect all broadcasters licensed before and now to do so both in their business dealings and, most importantly, in their output," Mpotokwane said. He commended BEStv for their efforts to ensure that Batswana have a stake in the venture.

Delighted BEStv representative Andrew Jones promised that as it is one of the licence conditions for the licensee to start operating within the stipulated time, they should "be up and running in the next six months". BEStv, once operational, will be competing not only with MultiChoice, but also with G-TV, which started operating in Botswana late last year. Jones affirmed the commitments previously made when he was still fighting to get the licence that their pay-TV, would be quite different from others. He said BEStv intends to represent the African continent through broadcasting, and is confidant that their programming will give already existent players some good competition, as it appreciates the importance of local, regional and international content. He said the platform provides an opportunity for local content packaged here, to be shared not only across the continent but across globe as well. Jones promised to provide a pay-TV service that "will be affordable to most Batswana".

Mmegi/The Reporter (Gaborone) 15 August 2008