It would seem it never rains but pours for Times Media Group as irregular programming they resorted to on their radio and TV station while fighting to vacate a Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) seizure of their premises on Friday, invited the wrath of Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra).
A letter dated January 13 2017 from Macra director general Godfrey Itaye, to Times TV and Times Radio station manager, which Nation on Sunday has seen, says Macra had noted that the media company had not complied with a programme schedule it had submitted to the authority.
“We note that on January 13 2017 you did not follow the programme schedules and formats as submitted,” reads the letter in part.
It adds: “Times Television relayed feed from BBC without carrying out any other programming while Times Radio played music the whole day. There was no formal communication made to the authority on the programmes change.”
The letter reminds Times Group that according to its licences, they are prohibited from changing over 20 percent of their programme schedule without Macra authorisation.
While confirming receiving the letter from Macra, Times Media Group editor-in-chief George Kasakula, laughed off the matter, saying Macra’s move betrays government as it confirms fears that some government organs are bent on frustrating the media company’s operations.
“It is unbelievable. Very unbelievable. They know what happened to us on Friday, and here they are writing us that we have changed programmes. We put BBC not because we wanted, but because MRA came into the house and chased us out. In any case, what is wrong with BBC international news?” said Kasakula, adding that they were still studying the situation to see how best to respond.
Macra has since given Times Group seven days, from the date of the letter, to explain in writing, why they did not follow the programme formats and schedules, and why the authority was not informed of the change.
Efforts to talk to Macra on the matter proved futile as their ground phone went unanswered.
Meanwhile, Times Group resumed operations at around noon yesterday following receipt and signing, by MRA, of a court injunction obtained against the seizure.
Kasakula confirmed in an interview that they had re-opened for business, and that they had resumed broadcasting on both Times Radio and Times TV.
He said The Sunday Times, was going to hit the street this morning.
After MRA sealed their premises Friday morning, Times Group’s Malawi News, which comes out on Saturday, still hit the street with a banner: ‘We are still out’.
MRA sealed Times Group premises for alleged failure to settle tax liabilities amounting to K675 969 316.75
The closure of Times Group premises was regretted by Misa-Malawi, whose chairperson, Thom Khanje, said his institution hoped MRA was acting in good faith. n