Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) has extended for one year the deadline 42 prospective broadcasters who have failed to go on air.
Out of 50 applicants who obtained their broadcasting licenses in September 2013, 22 radio stations and 20 television stations have yet to start operating.
MACRA has given eight months to the prospective radio stations to rollout their services and 12 months to the television stations from the day the license was published, failing which the authority can revoke the license.
MACRA’s spokesperson Clara Mulonya says the decision to grant an extension comes after the authority’s board members accepted requests from the operators to extend the period due to technical and financial challenges they are experiencing related to the rollout.
“Most of the broadcasters in their request for an extension are citing delays in procuring equipment and lack of funds due to donor fatigue for donor sponsored stations,” she said.
Nevertheless, she was astonished that applicants who had shown proof of financial muscle to run a station now say they have no funds after being awarded broadcasting licenses.
Mulonya says the broadcasters who are awarded licenses and fail to carry through, misuse an opportunity that some applicants who are not lucky in the bidding process could gladly use.
“The bottom line therefore is that applicants have to be honest with themselves on their source of funds to run a radio or television station,” she said. “It is advisable that if an individual is not financially or technically ready to open a broadcasting station, they should not apply for such services until they have sufficient financing.”
Mulonya explained that there may be yet another chance of further extension for broadcasters who will still be unable rollout by the end of extended period before they revoke the licenses.
“I would say that the possibility to further extend the period depends on the reasons given by the licensee for another extension. For example if the person failed due to circumstances beyond his or her control, and that they are ready to roll out the service after the having the second extension then we would consider the possibility,” she said.
Mulonya has dismissed fears from new applicants that the extension would delay the issuing of new licenses. “The extension cannot affect issuance of new licenses. We will go ahead and issue them as long as there is demand on the market,” she concluded.