eBotswana claims for lost ad revenue from SABC
By John Churu, Goborone, Botswana
Soon all SABC television channels will no longer be accessible in Botswana, Biztechafrica has established.
The development, which can be deemed unsavoury to most Botswana TV viewers, comes after a ruling by the Johannesburg High Court where the majority shareholder in eBotswana, Mike Klink, successfully sued SABC and its signal distributor, SENTECH, for failure to encrypt SABC signals in Botswana.
The same court ordered SENTECH to pay the costs of the case. e-Botswana station manager Dave Coles told Biztechafrica that SENTECH is liable to eBotswana for damages they suffered since March 25, 2009 until now, as a result of SENTECH’s failure to prevent pirate viewing in Botswana of SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 signals carried on Vivid platform.
e-Botswana argued that the piracy of the SABC signal through Chinese decoders popularly known as Phillibao here, had resulted in loss of business by denying the channel an opportunity to make profit from advertising. Accordingly, SENTECH was ordered to switch off all SABC signals in Botswana. In the ruling SABC was ordered to serve SENTECH with claims and SENTECH to respond within 10 days of receipt of the claims. However, this is to be preceded by determination of quantification of the damages to be claimed by eBotswana in a damages enquiry.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the National Broadcasting Board, Masego Mpotokwane, has said in media reports that his organisation was aware of the problems that eBotswana faced as a result of SABC channels being pirated in Botswana.
Biztechafrica followed the issue with Dave Coles, the manager at eBotswana:
BiztechAfrica (BTA): What plans are afoot at eBotswana to cover the gap which will be left by Sentech in the country?
Dave Coles (DC) I think a lot of pressure is being put on e-Botswana to instantly fill the void left by the SABC. One must be realistic however; as the gap won't be filled overnight but it will take time not only by eBotswana, but by BTV, Multichoice and other parties. The piracy took time to retard our broadcasting industry, and it will again take time to get it healthy again.
BTA: Since e-botswana is mainly concentrated in the peripheries of Gaborone as of now, do you have the capacity to go nationwide when the time comes?
DC: We intended to apply for a national Broadcasting Licence in 2009; we then put this on hold, as it was not financially feasible for us as the piracy of the SABC channels was already affecting our revenues. When Sentech does eventually re-encrypt the SABC channels, this will strengthen our revenues, and will thus allow us to look at the real possibility of us going National. We would like to be a television station that is relevant to ALL Batswana, and not just those living in and around Gaborone.
BTA: How will your programs fill the place left by the ones from SABC?
DC: We currently have an excellent program line-up. Our programming is very similar to that of our sister channel in SA, e.tv. We have daily soapies, wrestling, live EPL soccer and great blockbuster movies, so we do believe we will provide quality entertainment to our audiences.
BTA: What is the future of eBotswana in terms of roping in more local content?
DC: Increased revenue and possible programme sponsorships will enable us to commission local content. Botswana has a wealth of creative talent who would love for their content to be viewed and earn them a good living. We hope in time, eBotswana will provide them with such a platform that will see them grow and blossom.