Although numerous scholars across the world have sought to explore the relevance of television for development purposes in various national settings, there is a dearth of literature on the use of television for development in the Botswana context. A national television service, Botswana Television (Btv) was introduced in 2000 by the Botswana Government. However, Btv’s role in national development has received limited research attention. This study examines the role of television in national development in Botswana. In addition, the study explores the factors that influence the performance of television in a developing country context, with a view to suggest issues for consideration in media policy in Botswana to improve the performance of the Btv.
This analysis of Btv was conducted through a qualitative research methodology that comprised document analysis, schedule analysis, in-depth interviews, and focus group discussions. This combination of methods provides data that contributes to a more holistic knowledge of media and development in Botswana. Various documents about Btv and media in Botswana were reviewed to establish the media policy issues relating to television broadcasting in Botswana. The schedule analysis, which was a unique method applied in this study, involved reviewing samples of Btv schedules from 2010 and 2011 to examine Btv’s program output, specifically, the content related to Botswana’s national development priorities. In-depth interviews with 37 participants provided significant insights into the origins, role, and structure of Btv, as well as the socio-economic and political factors that influence the service. Focus group discussions were employed to explore audience perceptions of Btv programs.
The study illustrates that the role of television in national development in Botswana is mostly consistent with the role of the media advocated by the modernisation theory of development communication. The roles of Btv in this regard are education, information, entertainment and dissemination of government information. Most research participants in this study shared a common understanding that Btv should be a medium for diffusing development ideas initiated by the Botswana Government, for possible adoption by the public. Other roles of Btv relate to countering the dominance of neighbouring South Africa media content in Botswana, as well as contributing to Botswana’s economic diversification through advertising. The positive factors that validate the applicability of modernisation theory in the analysis of Btv include planning for the introduction of the service, improved transmission signal access, diverse programs that have been aimed at addressing developmental issues such as health, education and agriculture, and the use of the national language. Nonetheless, Btv audiences complained about limited cultural content on the channel. A political economy analysis of the factors influencing the performance of Btv revealed that the absence of a formal media policy framework has exacerbated the political and economic pressures facing Btv, such as state control and limited funding. This study therefore proposes that there is a need for the Botswana Government to introduce appropriate media policy with more emphasis on issues relating to its broadcasting model, objectives, funding, and programming with a view to strengthening and positioning Btv to realise its full potential in contributing to national development in Botswana.