A few years ago, television lovers would sluggishly sit in front of their TV sets and with little or rather no choice, watch whichever program Rwanda Television, the only station then, had to air.
The tide has since changed with the influx of many TV stations. TV 10 was the first private TV to be established.
Since then, more TV stations such as TV1, Flash TV, Royal TV, Clouds, and Family TV among others have also been established.
Although this has given the public more variety, most of the TV stations broadcast similar shows and majority of their content is foreign, something that has made the country’s motion picture scene unattractive.
Most of the TVs air Mexican soap operas, and popular Hollywood series like 24 and Scandal.
RTV shows the likes of Inspire me and Seburikoko a local drama which is an epitome of what stations should air as local content. Royal TV’s new drama, Virunga School is another piece that not only educates but also is entertaining. The same with TV1’s Ntugasaze Mzee.
For some outlandish reasons, TV stations seem to lack local substance for broadcast even with all the content that’s overwhelmingly around us.
Claude Ngoboka, a programs director at Royal TV, says that local content on television stations is obviously not enough because some stations, for instance, have music programs that give a platform to international songs mostly.
He says that things are the way they are not because TVs don’t know what local content puts on the table in terms of viewership or even impressing the viewers, but somehow it is brought about by a number of factors.
“Brilliant ideas are actually there and various people have proposals but then there is the issue of financial support which is still a barrier,” Ngoboka pointed out.
He stressed that, lack of financial support to prepare and organise local programs that Rwandans can actually enjoy is still a challenge and that’s why some of them choose options of downloads from YouTube though there are some that actually try to produce content that’s closer to Rwandans.
“I must say everyone prefers doing the best at their jobs and nobody rejects a good offer; all the stations we have, wish to work for Rwandans and give them spectacular content, what they need is to look for ways or means of putting into action the brilliant ideas they have and overcome the pending barriers”.
Friday James, a presenter and producer at RBA, say that the country has a lot of untapped TV content such as in sports, culture, tourism, social affairs, film, music, education, kids and more.
There are many people with TV show ideas but very few are able to even come up with an episode. The rarity of the latter is embedded in lack of creative ways to bring them to life, Friday says.
“My suggestion would be using whatever means you have to come up with content, start with social media, people to support you might want to join in. If you have equipment but lack creativity—I volunteer to support any one to realise their ideas.”
Besides finances, the presenter thinks that determination and zeal can make this aspiration come to life.
“I started CODE250 Show on TV10 as an intern, I had one camera operator, I produced, presented and sometimes edited the show at its initial phase, and it was difficult. Overtime, the show gained popularity and I believe as the show was intended to educate and entertain, we achieved that,” said Friday.
In order to produce more local content, Friday believes that TV stations should make it easier to support producers with potential pilot programs and the producers also need to create content that is ‘sponsor-able’.
“The government, private sector, NGOs need to support TV content initiatives for them to extend their services and products to the audience”.
Eugene Anangwe, a presenter at Royal TV, says TV stations in Rwanda can do better when it comes to production and airing of local content but what is seen are downloaded content being broadcast without any written agreements with producers of those shows.
He says, from experience as a content producer, the reason most TVs don’t produce local content is mostly a cost-related issue.
“Starting #Debate411 was never easy, I had to facilitate my assistant producer and my director of photography but through determination the programme has become one of the biggest talk shows in Rwanda,” he testified.
‘Virunga School’ is another of his programs that sets an example that indeed promotion of local content is the way to go when it comes to spicing up TV content.
“Virunga School” is the very first school based TV series; I believe this is a great step in the right direction in setting precedent for other TV stations and media owners. The series brings out the real day-to-day issues that take place in our schools,” he says.
Anangwe somewhat blames TV stations for not being supportive enough.
“The scenario that usually plays off is that one can produce a show at his or her cost and instead of media houses buying the content, they tell the producer to enter into a revenue sharing agreement. In this case the producer will produce and the TV will broadcast it at no cost,” he reveals.
He therefore recommends that, “Regulators of media content in Rwanda need to crack the whip on media houses that take the shortcut and broadcast material pulled from YouTube, this will force media owners to get content in order to remain relevant and by so doing, they will invest in producing their own shows.”
Are TV programs good enough?
Ronald Mutabazi a university student says that TV stations need serious spicing because they lack substance for their viewers and the few programs they have lack creativity.
“When it comes to TV in Rwanda I give up, shows are almost all similar and others even get to the point of copy pasting what other people are doing, this kills the vibe and as a viewer, I obviously lose interest,” he noted.
Yvonne Nirere a young entrepreneur loves watching TV and one of her favourite programs include music shows and other local dramas aired on TV.
She says TV production has indeed improved with a good number of enticing programs if you compare to when the only thing aired was Rwanda’s traditional dance.
“I must say our stations have improved, I remember sometime back when RTV used to air 24 Series but they could air an episode today and the next day one would wait for the next episode in vain, this inconsistency made things boring however this has all changed,” she applauds.
However for Willy Kamugisha, TV stations still have a long way to go in terms of content.
“I have no kind words for producers in Rwanda, there is too much rebroadcasting and it’s boring. The limited creativity they have makes them dwell on foreign stuff instead of digging deep in matters that affect our society,” he said.