Ordinarily, one would have thought the influx of television stations in the country would provide an opportunity for movie producers.
The opening up of the television airwaves by the Malawi Communication Regulatory Authority (Macra) meant that television producers could create content for the television stations, as is the case in other countries.
However, if current trends are anything to go by, there is hardly any content coming from local producers.
And it is this status quo that has prompted television stations to start producing their own content.
Zodiak Television, for instance, will launch a reality show called Family Brain Showdown with the winning family pocketing K5 million.
Twenty-four families, eight from each region, will be selected after countrywide auditions. The first auditions are set for this month.
Another private television, Times TV is also living no stone unturned as already it has launched Malawi’s first television dance competition, Ka Jive.
The streetwise dance contest is aimed at spurring new creative ways of dancing that is unique to Malawi. Twelve shortlisted dance acts are yet to be announced following auditions that were held in Blantyre last weekend.
K1 million (about $2 631) in cash and a K500 000 (about $1 315) scholarship at TechnoBrain is up for grabs in this contest.
But does this mean television producers do not have the capacity?
“There is so much content that producers can give television stations in Malawi. However, the problem is that airing costs are prohibitive. The television stations charge us to have content I have produced on that channel when normally, that station has to find sponsors or adverts for that. At least that’s what happens in other countries. You find a channel approaching a production house to do content on its behalf.
“Unfortunately, it is the quality that is compromised as not always do televisions stations have the equipment needed for that kind of production. But production houses put consideration detail,” explained producer Peter Mazunda.
He said, regrettably, the trend will continue unless television stations understand the essence of the existence of production houses as is done elsewhere.
“This has also led to the death of some production houses over the years. Very few are still alive as many have folded along the way. And those that are still around it’s because of the passion we have,” he explained.
Pioneering television producer Maneno Mtawali of Kings Multimedia squarely blamed the situation on the originality of television in Malawi.
“The coming in of television with MBC as a pioneer did not empower people to be doing productions, maybe its because of the MBC radio background where all its productions were done by its staff.
“Professionally, television stations commission production houses to do content for them. Look at Big Brother, it’s an M-Net production, but produced by Endemol South Africa. But us, we are starting from where our friends stopped some years ago,” he explained.
According to Mtawali, Malawi should adopt a model studio which will be used by all television stations in producing quality content.
“We bring resources together and buy necessary equipment and have a model of a studio that would be used by all television stations. In my view, that would be cheaper because generally, television equipment is expensive,” he mused.
South Africa, for example, has Sasani Studios, which until recently, was home to the production of Africa’s leading reality show Big Brother.
Some leading soaps such as Scandal!, Rhythm City, Muvhango are also produced there.
But Film Association of Malawi (Fama) believes television stations are taking advantage of the inadequate resources for producers to venture into big television productions like reality shows.
“Yes, the multiplicity of television licensees gives an opportunity to content producers. You are aware that now we have more music videos and films that are produced by some of our members. However, limited resources are a major factor in content production. You also have to factor in issues of the industry being relatively new.
“Most televisions are attempting to produce their content but it should be noted this is an extremely expensive undertaking. Quality is often compromised at the same time,” said Fama president Ezaius Mkandawire.
Put to them about the producers thoughts on television content, Zodiak’s director of programmes, projects and special events Joab Chakhaza said: “We feel it is not the right time for us to comment on the matter since we are still monitoring the situation on the ground and we are yet to decide how we can engage services of external programme producers.”