Barely a month after its launch, Malawi’s Joy TV has been ordered to
stop broadcasting because of allegedly using an expired license, writes
Sam Makaka.

The Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) says Joy TV’s five-year  licence was issued in 2002, and expired on 31st May this year. But Joy TV claims that its licence was for seven years and expires in 2009.

Operations manager for the TV, Tailos Bakili said: “We got a letter from Macra directing us to stop broadcasting because they say our license expired last May, but I can assure you that it isn’t.”

The controversy started in September when Joy TV announced that the station was ready to begin broadcasting in October.

Before they began, Macra wrote to them to say they could not go on air because, among other things, their license expired earlier this year.

In response, Joy took the regulatory body to court to get the order set aside, and for Macra to be dissolved on the grounds that it was wrongly constituted by being composed of political appointees.

A court initially granted the station’s applications, but Macra won an appeal and promptly wrote to the station repeating its earlier ruling.  Zadziko Mankhambo, public relations officer for Macra, said: “After the injunction was lifted we wrote Joy TV that they cannot broadcast until they renew their broadcasting license.”

However, it is now difficult for Joy TV to renew their license because the earlier court ruling dissolving the Macra board stands, and a new board has not yet been appointed.

This was not the only issue in court for Joy and Macra. The regulator also took Joy to court for owning two media organizations, both broadcasting nationwide, which is against Section 50 of the Communications Act.

It is not clear how Macra issued the two licenses to former President, Bakili Muluzi, owner of  Joy TV and Joy Radio.  Both were issued in 2002 when he was still in power.