here were some good tidings reported last Friday in as far as local music is concerned. Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) has started honouring the K153 million debt it owes the Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma) in outstanding royalties.
After several efforts from the copyright body in trying to force the taxpayer-funded MBC to start remitting the outstanding dues which date back to 2016, an amount of K18 million has been paid in two different instalments.
This issue had almost strained the relationship between the Musicians Union of Mum (MUM) who are the primary beneficiaries of the royalties and the station. After push came to shovels, MUM threatened to ban MBC from playing any local music on their stations.
One shudders to imagine a station which is run using public funds coming from the 17.6 million Malawians which form part of this country’s population being denied an opportunity of listening to local vibes as a result of some unhonoured debt.
That act in itself would be a greatest disservice to the nation that has never experienced this before and an unfortunate display of irresponsibility by the institution. That things got this close is even as shameful as it would have got.
One gets an overwhelming feeling that MBC sometimes deliberately plays careless as it very much counts on the understanding of bodies such MUM. But one day is one day, when they will get weary they will drop the patriotism card and whatever MBC thinks gets them wound up.
This is the money that they are rightly owed and are entitled to demand in any way they deem fit. For years now such threats have been uttered and it would not be a surprise if one day this rhetoric is turned into action.
The most baffling thing is that some small stations which run on much smaller operational budgets are able to pay the royalties in good time. Sadly, this is never the case with the country’s broadcasting station.
Somewhere within the system there is someone who plays down the importance of meeting this obligation. Whatever challenges present, MBC’s lack of commitment to timely honour these royalties puts the institution in some bad light.
The country’s creatives have few avenues where they recoup their sweat, talent and effort that they invest in their work from. Most of their productions suffer from massive piracy and would have thought the royalties are their most sure way of earning a little something.
In denying them or delaying this remuneration, MBC is not only punishing the artists but also stifling the growth of the whole industry. We have individuals whose survival is solely pegged on what they do artistically. How do we expect these people to survive if they cannot get their dues?
And looking at the percentage they have paid against the amount owed, it is a drop in the ocean. They deserved to do more and better than that. It is our hope that this time around they will honour their word by settling the remaining sum by December as per the agreement between the two parties.
December is just months away. Between now and then it is hoped MBC will get their act together so that the song between them and Cosoma and MUM on the other side should be different. 2016 is a long time and the patience as shown by both Cosoma and MUM should be commended.
And on their part, we believe Cosoma will also do the honourable thing making sure that the distribution of these royalties does not turn out to be an exercise laden with controversies at any level. Let all those deserving get their dues in the right amounts.n