Last evening I was in town, getting myself soaked to the September rains wondering if this could be attributed to effects of climate change or one of the malformations of nature. Then I received a phone call from a friend asking me if I was home and watching MBC TV, I said no. The friend told me that the broadcaster had just covered in its news bulletin the DPP rally in Masintha.
Just seconds after the call it was now text message from another text message. These were friends informing me that they just watched Professor Peter Mutharika on MBC TV. I said wow that must be exciting. Then the social media was awash with the “bravo MBC for opening up” messages. Again I said wow this is interesting. Unfortunately due to my tight television watching schedule, when I arrived home my interest was in the USA with events on the historic Government shut down, I couldn’t gamble switching on MBC TV.
To me the news that MBC has opened up or is trying to open up (whatever is the right way of putting it) is commendable but there is need to consolidate this development and take other necessary steps to make sure that MBC achieves a full status of a public broadcaster as enshrined in the Communications Act. It’s sickening to note that it has taken the country 22 years since the MBC Act of 1964 was amended in 1991 for us to finally start opening up the airwaves of MBC.
In fact we were not even supposed to be debating MBC because the communications act under section 87 directs that MBC in its provision of broadcasting services must function independently without any political bias, support the democratic process and have regard to the public interest.
In my view, all politicians in Malawi need to take the blame for failing Malawians on MBC. There is no need for “Bravo JB” here. Just go to MBC and see the politics within the corridors. You will hear of reporters being banned to cover presidential functions simply because they are believed to be blue or green instead of orange. People enjoying some favours because of a colour they are believed to be promoting than others. So the opening up should also bring with it a broom to take away all the political dirt that has clouded MBC for years.
Am longing for a time when I will be able to watch the TNM Super league game live instead of being forced to watch the president laying a foundation stone at some bus depot in Mangochi. Gees! That stone is for the people of Mangochi not for all of us. Why spending my tax money beaming such a function on a national TV? Who cares anyway? I need to watch football, netball and other programs live not watch Uladi Mussa and his bad mouth atakhutakhuta misonkho yathu nkumaphunzitsa ana athu kutukwana pa TV. As if that is not enough, there is always a repeat after the 8pm news.
To me opening up MBC means giving us news as it is not watching a PP Member of Parliament (or DPP, MCP or belonging to any other party) launching a football trophy in his area instead of updating us on the Mphwiyo shooting episodes as they progress. It just feels like we are still leaving under one party rule where MBC was there to talk about Kamuzu and MCP, nobody else. Apart from the news clip that had the DPP leader or this other day the MCP leader, it’s all about JB around the clock.
Let me put it clear here that this is not about JB, it’s about whoever seats at state house. We don’t need too much of you on TV, period!
Let MBC follow up stories like this one where we heard that there is no maize in most admarc depots; let them cover the depletion of maize in our maize silos. Let them carry interviews that are criticising the current administration not the “so and so have commended Government” stories, of course we are talking about well balanced stories where all sides are given the platform to be heard.
As we surely have shown commitment in this let’s not forget the fact that there is the Communications act weighing heavily on the shoulders of MBC where the Director General is answerable to the Minister of Information. Adding on that Section 90 of the act clearly states that the Board of MBC is appointed by the President. MBC can open up yes but we still have got the hand of a politician somewhere controlling events. That hand needs to be chopped off. We can’t be talking about the very same things over and over again. MBC runs on our taxes not on the bills of any politician. It is the duty of MBC to advance the encouragement of free and informed opinion on all matters of public interest, respect for human rights, the rule of law and the constitution of Malawi.