MBC denies poaching Mibawa Studios’ key sports production staff amidst TV broadcasting rights wrangle

Two of Mibawa Studios’ key sports production staff are reported to have resigned to join Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) after allegedly been offered higher salaries — a move which has been deemed by Mibawa as a ploy by the state broadcaster to try and incapacitate it.

But Director General, George Kasakula denies that it has poached anybody, including the two staffers being alleged to have moved for greener pastures, maintaining that “presently MBC hasn’t employed anybody”.

However, Mibawa Studios Chief Executive Officer, John Nthakomwa says he is just saddened as he suspects this to be personal on the part of MBC following a court injunction that the state broadcaster served on Football Association of Malawi (FAM) stopping its Mpira TV host and content producer, Mibawa Studios from broadcasting live the Airtel Top 8 match on November 13 between TN Stars and Silver Strikers at Chitowe.

Kasakula: Our case is with FAM not Mibawa

But Kasakula allayed Nthakomwa’s fears by putting on record that MBC has not taken Mibawa to court but FAM, saying: “We have nothing against Mibawa. We respect them as a fellow player in the media industry.

“Nobody should think that MBC is at war with Mibawa — that is not true. We were working out something with FAM [on broadcasting rights] which we think they didn’t do the right thing,” maintained Kasakula.

The injunction was indeed served on FAM which the court later allowed Mibawa to join the case as an interested through its lawyers — DNC Chambers — after High Court Judge Dingiswayo Madise issued an order on November 18 that varied the injunction and granted FAM and Mibawa temporary relief to broadcast the remaining Airtel Top-8 matches until the court heard more arguments in order to rule on the next course of action.

The hearing was set for today, November 25, in which lawyers for FAM Destone & Co as defendant and DNC Chambers for Mibawa Studios as interested party, were set to argue that MBC misrepresented and suppressed material facts and thus asking the court to vacate the injunction.

Nthakomwa was quick to say he is not bitter since some of their staff members have joined other broadcasters before — seeking greener pastures, saying they have “never complained before when other broadcasters took our staff”.

“If people feel they can get greener pastures elsewhere, we encourage it but this seems to be personal,” Nthakomwa said, while indicating his fears are coming from the injunction and its related issues.

“They started by making certain allegations about us — which I cannot talk about as the case is in court — now they are trying to weaken us by this.

“They already compete unfairly in this market by being heavily subsidized by our taxes — taking almost all of the government business through advertising that gives them advantage over the private sector business.

“This is not fair trading, it is killing the growth of the private television industry in Malawi. It has been like this for years — government and responsible entities really need to take this up.

“This I believe is one of the reasons private television companies struggle to grow and deliver the employment that government strives for. One should look at how much government business goes to MBC in addition to the subsidy.”

Nthakomwa explained that it started with one staffer, a camera operator whom Mibawa gave an opportunity to be trained as a live sports production manager, who tendered her resignation on November 16, 2021.

She was followed by a gentleman who was first employed as sports analyst and was given the opportunity to grow into a sports presenter and head of the sports department — who tendered his resignation on November 25, 2021.

Nthakomwa said the camera expert handed in a resignation letter and the colleagues she left on Mibawa sports team hinted to management that she had been hired by MBC, which was confirmed by a post they saw on her social media page status.

Asked if the first resignation was set to incapacitate Mibawa Studios, Nthakomwa said her departure did not affect them as they moved in to place the head of sports to take up her position.

“However, we heard rumours that he too was given an offer by MBC and yesterday [Wednesday the 24th] he confirmed receiving the offer when management engaged with him “but said he rejected it because of certain conditions that he was not happy with”.

“This morning, the 25th, he handed in his resignation letter, saying MBC had agreed to up his offer and address the issues he had raised including making his post permanent and not temporary as indicated in the initial offer.”

But Kasakula maintains that “MBC has not poached anybody from anywhere” including the two “whom you are referring to which am told were working for Mibawa”.

He said MBC has a pool of sports analysts that MBC engages with from time to time the two staffers from Mibawa are part of that engagement on “temporary basis to be paid something per appearance”.

“It happens all over the world when they invite analysts to help here and there but it’s not employment. As regards to where they are coming from, I don’t know.”

He added that there are processes MBC has to follow in recruiting new staff that include vacancy advertising inviting the public to apply when the need to employ new staff is arises.

He maintained that they experienced a gap in as far as sports analysts are concerned, saying they need experts to analyze sports on MBC but its not employment but are given a payment to cover for their personal costs used to visit MBC studios.

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