In history, Malawi has registered only three TV soap operas—Mama’s Restaurant, Tikuferanji and Timasukirane. Such dismal numbers of soap operas invite a lot of questions.
In most countries, TV soap operas are the key to increasing viewership ratings.
In Malawi, soap operas began in 2004 on television. The first soap opera was Mama’s Restaurant, which beamed on MBC TV up to 2005. However, it continued beaming on South African Broadcasting Corporation (Sabc) and DStv up to 2006.
There was also a TV soap Sweep which was aired on MBCTV for some time before it died an early death. According to the producer of Mama’s Restaurant, Thom Chibambo, they had a one-year contract to settle with DStv.
The soap, which had six episodes, each running for 30 minutes, could not outlive its sponsors, a German organisation GTZ (now known GIZ) who left it in the hands of the locals after training them in movie filming, directing and acting.
“Soaps are very expensive to sustain. The corporate world could not manage to sustain it for its continued storyline. However, with readily available funds, we can always bring it back,” said Chibambo.
Starred by Dyson Gonthi and Hope Chisanu as main actors, Mama’s Restaurant was described as ‘number two soap opera in Africa.’
Now, Timasukirane, funded by the Story Workshop, has become the third TV soap. Butthe question is: Why is the TV soap opera industry growing at such a snail’s pace in Malawi?
Tikuferanji video producer Edson Gunsalu says the exorbitant prices, coupled with minimal profits from the industry, scare people away from producing the series.
“Paying for casting, script, crew and sites of shooting costs over K3 million [about $8 822] in a single episode. We pay K1.5 million [about $4 411] for an episode to be on TV. With such charges, it becomes expensive to run the series,” says Gunsalu.
Story Workshop executive director Kent Mphepo says TV stations are not enterprising enough to invest in self-sustaining projects.
“With the capacity of our TVs, they can’t manage to buy programmes unless they develop enterprising spirits to defeat the spirit of dependency,” he said.