The public broadcaster, Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), has said it never made a commitment to Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) that it would stop rebroadcasts of President Joyce Banda’s campaign rallies.
MEC on April 4 2014 held a meeting with management and the board of MBC where the electoral body unreservedly condemned the unprofessional conduct of MBC two weeks after campaign opened.
MEC, according to a statement after the meeting, demanded radical changes that would lead to equitable coverage of all contesting political parties in the May 20 Tripartite Elections.
MEC in a statement by its spokesperson Sangwani Mwafulirwa said the MBC management and the board committed to undertaking immediate changes and reforms, including stopping rebroadcasts of rallies where the President was campaigning.
MBC is said to have challenged MEC, political parties, civil society organisations and electoral stakeholders to observe its performance for a seven-day period to appreciate the changes.
But MBC spokesperson Ruth Gama said in a response to a questionnaire that the public broadcaster never made the commitment to stopping evening repeats, on radio and television, of President Banda’s campaign rallies.
Gama said: “It is not true that MBC agreed with MEC that it should not rebroadcast campaign rallies. MBC operates under a Macra [Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority] licence which obligates it to cover the incumbent President.
“Besides the licence, MBC shall also always abide by the provisions of the Communications Act . As stipulated in our licence under Schedule 5.1–5:2; The incumbent President will always enjoy live broadcasts in her capacity as Head of State, as long as the airing of such is balanced by coverage of other presidential candidates which is the case now at MBC.”
She said while MBC broadcasts the President’s rallies live, it is their view that whatever the President says becomes policy and as a public broadcaster, MBC is not only mandated but obligated to widely disseminate the same.
Gama said: “You will appreciate that during day time, people are in offices or travelling about while in the evening they sit back in the comfort of their homes to watch what would have been in the news. Thus the rebroadcast will enable them catch up with national issues.”
To confirm their position on this, MBC last Sunday rebroadcast President Banda’s campaign rally in Mzuzu where she launched her party’s manifesto.
MBC TV, as monitored by The Nation, spat MEC in the face and rebroadcast the rally in the evening in addition to the live coverage earlier in the day.
MEC spokesperson Mwafulirwa in a response to a questionnaire said the commission would give its proper assessment when it meets to deal with the issue.