Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) on Wednesday summoned State-funded Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) for operating without a valid licence.
Both Macra and MBC confirmed separately the public broadcaster’s licence was not renewed between 2019 and 2020; hence, the summoning to a hearing in Mangochi.
On the same day and venue, the communications regulator also summoned privately-owned Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) for use of wrong frequencies in Ntcheu, which Macra considered a serious breach.
In a written response on Thursday, Macra spokesperson Clara Ngwira confirmed that the authority summoned the public broadcaster for breaching the Communications Act by operating without a valid licence.
She said: “It is within the regulatory powers of Macra to ensure that all players in the sector are operating within the legal provisions. Operating without a valid licence is serious breach.”
Ngwira said the authority summoned ZBS over their use of wrong frequencies in Ntcheu which was a disregard of the authority’s allocated frequency to the privately-owned broadcaster.
The Macra spokesperson said all broadcasters are expected to use legally-assigned frequencies and transmission powers in the designated geographical areas.
She said MBC and Zodiak management teams appeared before Macra’s legal committee where they were told of their charges and they took plea.
“The subcommittee will report its final verdict to the board which shall make the pronouncement in due course,” said Ngwira.
In an interview on Friday, MBC director general George Kasakula said they pleaded guilty before the Macra legal committee as his institution was indeed on the wrong side of the law.
He said they pleaded with Macra to be lenient because the issue happened before he joined the institution.
Said Kasakula: “I told the committee to understand where MBC is coming from–the time there was impunity at the public broadcaster.
“We’re now a changed institution and as we speak, we’ve paid all fees due to Macra and we owe them nothing. It’s on these basis that we pleaded for their leniency.”
He said he was hopeful their licence would soon be gazetted, assuring the public that MBC is ready to follow all the regulations and is doing everything possible to be a true public broadcaster.
On his part, ZBS director of engineering and technical services Haswell Solomon said the issue is with the Macra board.
He said: “We put our defence to Macra. It is an issue that dates back to 2019 when Macra implemented a spectrum frequency reframing.
“I think we should not comment on the issue in the media now to avoid prejudicing their judgement for or against us. We’ve always complied to all our regulatory requirements.”
Solomon added that such summons by Macra are normal for broadcasters.