The Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration Eric Molale says opposition parties are free to open their own unbiased television station if they feel the national television Botswana Television (Btv) is not meeting their expectations. Molale made the statement in response to the MP for Gaborone Central, Dr Phenyo Butale’s inquiry during the Minister’s Question Time in Parliament on Friday. Following several objections from several opposition MPs who bemoaned the unfairness of the state media in giving them coverage, arguing that the ruling party is always given wider coverage, Molale dismissed their statements as just baseless accusations. According to Molale, the state media always exercised fairness and did everything by the book and that if opposition members in their own ‘biased view’ feel they are prejudiced by its coverage, they are free to open their stations as permissible by law.
In his question themed - Transformation of state media to public service media, BOCRA Act reform to adopt the internationally accepted three-tier system of public, private and community – Butale said as defined by several bodies including the UNECO, Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) is broadcasting made, financed and controlled by the public, for the public and is neither commercial nor state-owned and is free from political interference and pressure from commercial forces.
Butale argued that failure to identify with such internationally acclaimed references simply rendered the state broadcasters, controlled, accountable and answerable to the state as it is currently. In defense, the minister however argued otherwise, saying there is no difference between state media and public service media. According to Molale, the two share the same mandate of informing, educating and entertaining; hence there was no need for any transformation.
“Whatever you are quoting was probably written by professionals, and I am saying I have my professionals and they are equally professionals of good standing and I believe in what they say. We have discussed and that is the opinion I hold.
They were trained internationally so they have those standards and they have their own way of understanding what they learnt from the International scene,” Molale said. Although he stood his ground, Molale was met by fierce resistance from members of opposition who argued that state-owned media was largely unfair in its dealings and usually favoured the ruling party than all opposition parties. They quoted a response made by Molale’s Assistant Minister Thato Kwerepe last month, who had told parliament that Btv had aired only five programmes of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) between June and November 2016 while they on the other hand broadcasted 40 items belonging to the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) during the same period.