Earlier this week, the Minister of Youth Employment, Sport and Culture Development, Thapelo Olopeng met for a consultative meeting with local Film and Television producers in Gaborone, where he informed the packed auditorium that his ministry is ready to expedite the amendment of the Cinematograph Act.
He also informed the creatives that the industry needs a robust structure in the form of the National Arts Council, which the industry has been demanding for a number of years as well as the Film Commission. The creatives were also informed that the next tendering process for content for Now TV was on the way. Now TV has a budget of P50 million, and P10 million from this budget goes towards the running of the station as well as investing in structures such as the infrastructure for live streaming. Other key issues that came out was the need to have a rate card, which will guide stakeholders; the question of the P50 million budget which they feel is too little for the industry, and concerns over the 13 episodes which is the current requirement for content. Some felt that 13 episodes that translates into three months is very little and are calling for 26 episodes at the most. For his part, Olopeng told the gathering that the fact that the first citizen is a creative, having acted in productions such as Joseph and the Amazing Technicolours means that he understands the challenges facing the industry.
He also promised that they will move very fast on breathing life into the National Arts Council. One of the key issues that came out was related to content acquisition. Some feel that commissioning is the future when it comes to acquiring content.
“Commissioning is transparent, and it will save a lot of filmmakers as unsolicited content is expensive,” says Kabo Monare. For his part, Olopeng assured the producers that he was at the meeting to get advice from them, and that his office will not shy away from consulting. He also says that they will engage experts, and that this is only the beginning of good things to come.
“We started with Now TV this year. It took us two years to get it running. The president has called for us to consult as much as possible which is why we are consulting today. I will be a fast messenger between you and the cabinet,” he promised. Clarifying the Now TV issue, the broadcaster Cordinator Legae Digwaamaje highlighted that they have signed the draft contract with DStv, and that they were in the process of procuring hardware that will enable them to decode the Now TV signal before it airs. He also says that their wish is not to have Geo blocking, where the channel is only available on some parts of the region, but that due to contractual obligations with the other parties, the channel will only be broadcast in Botswana.
He further says that they are in partnership with BOFINET which will see them streaming live online. Speaking on the sidelines of the forum, Pascar Proctor said the industry is in a revival stage, a good revival, he emphasised. He says that for years, the industry has been in a summit with founding and early players but has since seen new players getting involved. He further advised that to go into the next level of growth, the industry needs to summit as an army and not as individuals. Proctor, however, points out that the world is moving away from film commissions and arts councils, but that locally these two initiatives should be done in a modern way in order to survive the next twenty years.