Gaborone — Government does not intend to dominate the television space especially with regard to youth television.
Officially launching the youth TV channel, Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Thapelo Olopeng said going forward the youth channel would seek to be self-financing through commercial ventures in partnership with private sector investors.
"I wish to appeal to the private sector to support this new baby. This is a major milestone in the ministry's endeavour to promote the arts and empower the youth," he said.
Dubbed NOW TV, Olopeng said his greatest pleasure was that young people with the ability to produce TV productions now had a place to air them.
He said the dream to introduce a new medium of expression, entertainment and engagement for young people in the country started late 2015.
"And to achieve this, we first went through a process to seek permission from government as the broadcasting portfolio resides with another ministry. We were happy when this was granted by Cabinet to which conceptualisation, planning, resource mobilisation and execution followed. The project started with a limited budget of P10million," said the Tonota legislator.
Olopeng indicated that content was acquired from local production companies through an Expression Of Interest and the key condition was that it should be local content.
He noted that over 40 companies showed interest and they were able to procure from 22 companies due to a limited budget.
The minister said the youth TV channel would offer a variety of genres ranging from sport, comedy, talk show, drama, soapies and documentary all created by Batswana youth.
"They are all fresh, new content that is exclusive to our youth TV channel. We will continue to engage with content creators for the long term sustainability of the service. What pleases me nonetheless is that the channel will play 100 per cent local content for a start," he said.
Olopeng said in 2008, government introduced various programmes to promote the arts and this has cultivated the ground and exposed local artistic talent.
He said as a result, Botswana art has come of age and this has been demonstrated by the recent performances and achievements of local artistes which were appreciated both locally and abroad.
"Some of our local artistes and models are currently engaged in international productions in different countries. Furthermore, young Batswana have been educated in some of the best theatre and film schools," he continued, adding that however, they have had limited opportunities to showcase their talent and express themselves.
He said a platform such as the youth TV channel provided such an opportunity and through interaction with the youth largely on social media platforms and in various consultative forums, it became clear that time had come for the television space in Botswana to accommodate a youth TV channel.
Olopeng said the youth TV channel would broadcast throughout Botswana on the digital terrestrial platform which requires an ISDB-T set-top box.
"I am aware of limited availability of set-top boxes in the market currently. This remains a business opportunity for entrepreneurs to service the television market in Botswana. The channel is available on satellite feed to air via dvb-S2 MPEG-4," he said.
He further said any decoder that is able to receive high definition signals should pick-up the channel and the service would also be receivable online by anyone with Internet access.
Olopeng said his ministry continues to engage with digital satellite TV providers to maximise receiving platforms for viewers.
"We will further explore reception on hand-held and portable devices in the course of time. In its humble beginnings, the youth TV channel will be limited to four hours a day due to limited financial resources," he said, further adding that the duration would increase gradually over the next 12 months to 24 hours.
"I therefore encourage you to work hard and produce quality content for your channel. Young people with a passion for a career in film production will find jobs from various production houses," he said.
He commended Limkokwing University of Creative Technology for its support and contribution to the channel.
"Through its generous support for this project, Limkokwing University has demonstrated commendable social corporate responsibility," he concluded.
For his part, Assistant Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Kefentse Mzwinila said the ultimate goal of the youth TV channel was job creation.
"We are providing an alternative market and much needed avenue for our youth to shine and get those important jobs and develop the creative industry," he said.
He said government was committed to the long term development of this nation and the youth TV channel would go a long way in making this happen.
"The youth TV channel will encourage ownership and sense of responsibility for our youth," he concluded.
The ministry permanent secretary, Kago Ramokate said the launch of the youth TV channel was an exciting time for his ministry and that the channel could not have come at a better time for the development of the youth.