Reforming Malawi Broadcasting Corporation

If there is an institution that Malawians yearn to be transformed, it is Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC). Even during the Anti-Jane Ansah demonstrations, reform of MBC was one of the themes that protesters raised. The public broadcaster has completely lost direction. At no time has the corporation stooped so low and reduced itself to a party broadcasting station than during the DPP government. It was operating like a guerrilla radio station fighting an enemy located in a thick forest and bombarded it with propaganda messages at every turn. It has excess baggage that should be shed off.

MBC director general Aubrey Sumbuleta (L) tells Minister Kazako: We will correct our past mistakes, we are professionals [my foot!]
Announcers turned themselves into party officials defending DPP to teeth [even foolishly] and vilifying opposition leaders and insulting them without an iota of shame. What is more irking is that management was enjoying the unbecoming behaviour of announcers who were masquerading as news analysts. The inept board chaired by Rev Billy Gama share much of the blame for failing to assert its oversight role over the operations of MBC. It tolerated the unprofessional behaviour to the level it became irrelevant.

The newly appointed Minister of Information and Civic Education Gospel Kazako has sent the right signal to MBC employees that reforms are on the cards. Like any restructuring process, some people will find themselves on the streets just as ‘it is difficult not to crush ants when you turn a stone’

Reforms at MBC should take several forms.  Board members should be competent to provide an oversight role over management. While the trend has been to fill the board with party supporters or those close to party leaders, this should now be discouraged. It will be another vicious circle! The president should hire men and women from diverse background as guided by Section 112 of the Communication Act (2016) and let the board operate without interference from the executive or political party.

In line with Section 117 of the Communications Act, the board of MBC and NOT the president must appoint the Director General (who is the CEO) on merit. The job has to be advertised and the appointment ‘shall only be based on qualification, experience and capacity.’ In Malawi, successive governments from UDF to DPP have been flouting this important provision.

Presidents have been appointing the different CEOs against the law. Sadly, civil society, the Law Society, the opposition and other interest groups have paid a blind eye to the illegal appointments and allowed presidents to get away with their actions instead of challenging the presidents in court to reverse the unlawful appointments. The worst appointment happened during UDF era when Sam Mpasu, (Rip) then Minister of Information, appointed his personal assistant Wilson Pankuku (Rip) to be Director General.

President Chakwera and Tonse Alliance should resist the temptation to go the route of the previous presidents and set a good example to uphold the law and let the board recruit the CEO.  Political appointees usually perform badly and undermine the board because they feel they are responsible to the president who appointed them and not the board. They are puffed up with pride and arrogance. And we wonder why CEOs are cadets serving their political masters and not Malawians.

The CEO and all the employees need to dutifully embrace the mandate of MBC as a public service broadcaster as enshrined in Communications Act, Part XIV (Section 109-110). Among the important obligations are for MBC to encourage free and informed opinion on all matters of public interest; reflect the wide diversity of Malawi’s cultural life and function without any political bias and independently of any person or political bias.

The mandate necessarily calls for all staff from the CEO to other operating officers to be properly qualified for the various roles. They should uphold the law and refuse to be used by politicians. We have seen how this mandate has been thrown into Lake Malawi over decades because of political interference and some foolish announcers who allow themselves to be used by politicians for political gain.  There should be a drastic shift in the working culture.

Management need to review a code of ethics and draft stringent rules to stop employees from being used by politicians or behaving like a political party spokesperson. One way to prevent this is not to allow announcers to be master of ceremonies at political rallies or government functions. They easily lose their heads and turn themselves into party cadres or speak like a party official. If it is a party function, let a designated party official lead. If it is a government function, let a government official moderate the proceedings.

The reforms will be incomplete if MBC does not open up to other ethnic groups to broadcast in their own language. MBC is not like private or community broadcasting that targets a specific audience.  MBC as a public broadcaster, (funded by all Malawians through parliament.) with a clear mandate to carry out public service broadcasting which should reflect the wide diversity of Malawi’s cultural life in its broadcasting. The various language groups -Yao, Lomwe, Tumbuka, Sena etc- which represent different cultures, need to share the microphone with the Chewas so that they tell their stories in their own language.  Some language groups do not feel part of Malawi because they are sidelined in broadcasting.  MCP and Tonse Alliance should rectify this. Government should ensure that other language groups are accommodated as the case with countries like Mozambique, South Africa and Zambia.

Programming is also an area that requires attention. Generally speaking, MBC has poor programmes because many of them have been designed to glorify the president, his wife, his political party or political propaganda, Content and presentation also leave a lot to be desired. Too many  repetitive editions.

New informative programmes that embrace our national identity are needed. However, it would be disappointing to design programmes to glorify President Chakwera and Tonse Alliance Movement. It is like replacing DPP with MCP and Tonse Alliance with no real change. Malawians want real change. Management may well conduct an audience research to gauge the type of programmes the audience would like to watch or listen to.

Malawians need a better MBC that would serve everyone regardless of tribe, political affiliation or political beliefs. The reforms are inevitable

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Zofu
Guest
Zofu

Bwinoso kumeneko anduna osayamba kumenyanitsa amkazi

Declaration of Victory and third Revolution
Guest

MBC became a propaganda too for MBC and should be disbanded at all costs. The likes of Steve Maseya challenging court rulings and was that normal. The list of employees that is circulating on social media shows cadets and MBC was full of cadets. The likes of Geoffrey Kazembe were no where near despite coming from Chiradzulu. There are names that went to MBC with Chimwemwe Kajawo just to promote dpp through hatred. They did not plan it well. Malawi belongs to different groups of people and the way Malawians think these days, it is not easy to manipulate them… Read more »

Che Jika
Guest
Che Jika

Well articulated brother Mtonga.A reformed MBC is what we ourselves want.

Fake Petros
Guest
Fake Petros

Chief Justice Maseya umbuli ndi umbuli samadzi ndithu kuti they were doing disservice to their mafia president Al Capone Mutharika.

Mpakateni
Guest

Good points, but I disagree on ethnic languages. South Africa is more diverse than Malawi and comparatively RSA is financially stronger than Malawi. To accommodate those suggested languages adequately, it requires to build a bigger broadcasting house with a larger newsroom and employ more people not only to handle news, but also to produce other programmes in those languages. This means that the exercise will drain a lot of money. We must also appreciate when Bakili became President in 1994 such languages were introduced, but MBC faced so many challenges. If not well handled ethnic languages can be a dividing… Read more »

Nafenso
Guest
Nafenso

MBC needs mega reform. I better watch Mibawa than MBC TV. Those guys are still bitter that their party lost. It clearly shows in their faces. They can be snakes in the grass if kept. Let them go and work for their masters without kufinyika.

Nedi K
Guest
Nedi K

Well articulated article.In my opinion, careful research should be undertaken on languages to balance 2 things: Tonse agenda carries everyone aboard. Would paying extra attention to tribal languages advance this agenda or not in 2020.
Chichewa was a national language then. Do people feel bad to mention the word Chichewa as having a bias connotation for a specific tribe? The Chewa?
When we introduce other tribal languages at MBC, what do we want to achieve?

Hapana Mbejere
Guest
Hapana Mbejere

Zachamba basi. Osangomuuza Chakwera Chilima Kazako kuti apange zomwe mukufunazo bwanji. MCP irino ndi MBC, Times, ndi Zodiak ngati ma broadcasters awo. You just watch conflicts of interest between the three.

Nambuma Girl
Guest
Nambuma Girl

Cadet walira kkkkkk. Muchira koma

Wachiyao
Guest

Ndinadziwa kuti wina alira! Kkkkkkkk! Koma ma Cadet! A very interesting brood of fools.

Kadya nkena
Guest
Kadya nkena

Unless u want to create ur own mbc boy otherwise zisiyeni

#Better MW
Guest
#Better MW

You lost me there with your multiple language suggestion. Having various languages, in my opinion encourages tribalism, and people thinking they are not part of the whole. Let it be English and Chichewa in schools and as national languages. Almost everyone can speak Chichewa, so why not keep it that way. I have respect for every language, and there is a place for it, but I just don’t think a public broadcasting station is that place. You cannot cater to every grouping, and you cannot please everyone, and have you even considered the cost of producing programs in multiple languages.

Me and you
Guest
Me and you

Rather it encourages everyone to accept the other as part of them.

CESSPOOL
Guest
CESSPOOL

The fourth estate looks set to make the correct noise. Tonse Philosphy on this matter seems to be gearing in the right direction we do hope that we shall be listening to the BBC of Nyasaland. For balanced news normal Malawians refer themselves to Zodiak. MBC has been an empty shell directed by zombies

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