Malawi Congress Party (MCP) yesterday suggested that the public broadcaster, Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), be given K1 in the 2018/19 National Budget for its continued bias towards the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
This, the main opposition party observed, was despite the House passing a motion for the broadcaster to change.
Standing on Standing Order 69, Lilongwe Central legislator, who is also the party’s chief whip, Lobin Lowe asked Minister of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Nicholas Dausi if he was aware of the behaviour of MBC and what he would do to monitor the situation.
Said Lowe: “Despite passing a motion in the House, MBC has not changed as expected. MBC is still broadcasting hate messages and still being biased in its operations. If he is aware, what is the ministry going to put in place to contain the unfortunate situation as we go towards the general elections campaign.”
He said MBC being a public broadcaster and not a party entity, is supposed to serve all Malawians equally and be run by professionals and not politicians.
“What MBC is doing now despite calls for it to change I suggest that we don’t give money to its vote, last time I know that we gave it K1 so we can do the same this time,” said Lowe.
However, the suggestion of denying the public broadcaster any funding was quashed by First Deputy Speaker Esther Mcheka Chilenje who said it is illegal to do so.
“We can’t have a vote without being given money. Last time we allocated K1 to the broadcaster because legally that is not allowed,” she said.
In his response in the House and in an interview later, Dausi said his ministry is there to provide policy and direction, because there are regulators such as the Malawi Regulatory Authority (Macra).
“The ministry remains an organ which provides policy and direction, if at all there is anything wrong with programming of MBC, the complainants should go to Macra, it is only when media houses are not cooperating, that’s when we come in, but in this case, Macra said there was no case,” he said.
In an interview later Dausi said the programmes that MCP are complaining about are those that are historical in nature which are similar to what some private media houses have.
“These are historical programmes, Macra told them that there is no case, they are the programmes which are there to bring back the history of Malawi, for people to know what happened, on ZBS there is Zingayambe Kuiwalika, Times has started Adayankhula Chani, and on MBC Sapita Kawiri and others all borders on what happened,” he said.
Dausi said there is no need for the ministry to impinge on the flow of information but allow people to say what they want and let debate follow, adding that the vote of MBC can only be defeated in Parliament during a committee of supply where the votes are approved and passed.
The responses by the minister in the House, however, did not satisfy members especially on the MCP bench who said the ministers response was quite clear that he was not aware that MBC hasn’t changed and that they haven’t lodged a complaint with Macra.
Dowa East MP, Richard Chimwendo Banda said MCP lodged a complaint but nothing happened.
“The minister talks of complaining, MCP did that already to Macra and nothing happened, they are still producing those programmes,” he said.
During a meeting with officials from MBC on their 2018/19 budget outlook and a reflect on the 2017/18 budget, members of Parliamentary Cluster on Communication and Trade expressed dismay over how the broadcasting house manages some of its programmes which they said are propaganda and a direct attack on some individuals in society.
In his response MBC director general Aubrey Sumbuleta while acknowledging that there were some problems with their programming, said they are working hard to improve the approach to their content.
The broadcaster has been provided K2.1 billion for the 2018/19 financial year