Building vibrant and tolerant democracies
Malawians on their way to work in the morning or eating supper home in the evening will soon be struggling with a new and decidedly tricky problem – which of the myriad TV and radio stations to choose.
For years, Malawians have had little choice – and under the authoritarian regime of former president, Bingu wa Mutharika, there seemed little chance of many new stations being allowed to broadcast.
But as with so many things in Malawi, Mutharika’s death has paved the way for radical change.
Astonishingly, the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) has just awarded not one or two but fifteen new radio and TV licences to prospective broadcasters, who had applied for the licenses two years ago.
The announcement of names of successful broadcasters comes barely a week after the Malawi Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-Malawi) wrote to MACRA expressing concern on the delays in granting broadcasting licenses.
Currently, Malawi boast just one public and two religious television stations but these will soon be joined by the new broadcasters, including Times Television, a subsidiary of The Times Group; Zodiak Broadcasting Station; Chancellor College Community; Adventist; Timveni; Good News and Beta TV.
Some of the applicants that have been awarded radio broadcasting licenses are Central African Presbyterian Synods of Blantyre, Nkhoma and Livingstonia; Chancellor College Community; Matindi; Mwandama and Bua FM.
The Minister of Information, Moses Kunkuyu, said that liberalisation of the broadcasting industry was one of the less publicised goals of the new Joyce Banda administration.
“It is a clear manifestation that government has set its priority towards empowering Malawians through information knowledge. Government will ensure that diversity of views in the media is guaranteed. One way of doing this will be the continued granting of broadcasting licences to independent television and radio stations,” said Kunkuyu.
The minister further explained that the prospective broadcasters are expected to roll out within twelve months for television and six months for radio.
Commenting on this development, MISA-Malawi Chairperson, Anthony Kasunda, applauded the government for promoting media freedom and media pluralism. He was also quick to ask media houses to roll out their services within the scheduled time to prevent their licences from being revoked – and to stress that this development would create employment for media professionals
“This development is a key milestone in the history of broadcasting in Malawi,” said Kasunda.