Television is consumed only by Burundians who have high standards of living. The rural world is literally cut off from TV consumption, as only households dwelling in electrified urban centers have television sets. As of September 2018, there were six TVs (against five in March 2015), two foreign channels (against one in March 2015), and two distributors. There were also eight web TVs (against none in March 2015).
Founded in 1984, with the initial help of French cooperation, the Télévision nationale is the pioneer of the televisions operating in the country. Closely supervised by the authorities, it broadly disseminates news coverage of the authorities’ activities. As for the case of Radio nationale, the Télévision nationale often broadcasts declarations from political actors and leaders of a civil society that has shifted "to the State side" and has therefore lost "its representativeness," as denounced by the Union Burundaise des Journalistes (Burundian Union of Journalists - UBJ) in a report of February 2019 on the use of hate messages in Burundian media. Opposition figures do not have access to this TV station, whose headquarters are set up in Bujumbura and guarded by the soldiers of the Brigade Spéciale de Protection des institutions (Special Brigade for the Protection of Institutions - BSPI). Since 2015, the TV is airing hate messages with various accusations targeting Rwanda, Belgium, France and the European Union. The debates are led by journalists chosen for their allegiance to power and do not allow any contradiction and, to put in the words of the UBJ report, all "guests speak the same language."
As the political theorist Hannah Arendt said: "There is authentic democracy only when power comes from free discussion, from the free confrontation of diverse viewpoints, none must be ignored, all must be exposed, considered, debated, judged." The UBJ report of the second quarter of 2018 on the violation of the rights of journalists echoes her words in denouncing this situation which is detrimental to democracy.
The Télévision nationale still manages to sell space and bail out the coffers of a company that only receives government wages from workers. All the numerous field missions carried out by state authorities are covered with funds obtained from advertisers. It is understandable, therefore, that there has been no (further) major initiative by journalists who have become true civil servants per se. Topics of interest for even only the urban populations are rarely treated. Therefore viewers cannot help but point out the faded nature of the broadcast content. For example, they would prefer to receive more informative international news as they used to do when Voice of America and BBC were aired.
In 2008, privately-owned Tele Renaissance was launched with the ambition to decentralise the public debate by giving voice to political actors who could not easily access the Télévision nationale. The French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, who was present at the launch of Tele Renaissance, said that its message should be at the service of fraternity. The TV was destroyed during the 2015 crisis, but managed to reopen later in Rwanda in 2016.
Denominational televisions cannot be the counterbalance of Tele Renaissance. They do not have many ways to operate. Yet, in the 2007 report Overcoming 40 Years of Failure: A New Roadmap for Sub-Saharan Africa, written by the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs of Canada, the international community was urged to support Africa in "its efforts to establish real institutions" such as autonomous judiciaries, free and independent media, autonomous central banks, independent election commissions, effective public functions and "neutral and professional police services." The same international community should help parliaments to improve their "legislative functions and oversight functions."