Private broadcasters in the country have faulted Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) for transiting to new frequencies without giving them time to prepare their listeners.
The broadcasters have also faulted Macra for not taking into consideration their concerns raised after the regulatory body’s consultants came up with results of a study to rebrand the frequency modulation (FM) band on which most of the private radios have their frequencies.
Macra has switched some radio stations’ frequencies to new ones to decongest the FM band which it says was saturated and caused interferences.
But in an interview yesterday, Zodiak Broadcasting Station managing director Gospel Kazako said although they are in agreement with the decongesting exercise, they fault Macra for not giving them time to prepare their listeners and advertisers on the changes.
He said Macra gave them only a week’s notice in mid- February, adding the authority did not address the queries that the broadcasters raised when they were consulted on the process.
Said Kazako: “It is a process called FM Band replanning and it was done long time ago. Our engineers were called to Macra to give input on the study that it did and it turned out that the engineers were not satisfied with the findings and raised queries which we were waiting to be addressed. But to our surprise, we just woke up to them switching us to new frequencies.”
He said the abrupt switch of frequencies is costly and it has affected them as broadcasters.
“We are not against the change but they could have at least given us time to prepare our listeners in transitioning,” said Kazako.
Times Group managing director Leonard Chikadya agreed with Kazako, saying they were given little time to prepare listeners, adding the move by Macra was questionable.
“We had many questions which we wanted them to address first before the transition, we waited for them to come back to us, but they never did. They just called and gave us a week that our frequencies will be changed. Instead of them giving the new frequencies to new entrants, they have given them ours. What sort of move is that?” asked Chikadya.
However, Macra spectrum management deputy director Patrick Musiyapo, who said they are yet to officially announce the changes, said the broadcasters were given enough notice.
He said: “They have not been ambushed. The project started in 2017 and we invited all broadcasters to tell them the problems we were facing. There was congestion on the FM band causing too much interference, so we embarked on a decongesting drive since 2017 which we finished in 2019.”
Musiyapo has since said the broadcasters should understand that the frequencies are not theirs, and that they are only licensed to use them. He said the most affected are major broadcasters such as the tax-payer funded State broadcaster Malawi Broadcasting Cooperation, Times, ZBS, Capital Radio, MIJ and Timveni. Musiyapo said most community radio stations have not been affected.