As the campaigning for the general elections in Malawi set for 19 May
hots up, opposition political parties have shunned the state-controlled
broadcaster, the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) in preference
for privately owned broadcasters, according to a communique from Misa.
The opposition parties were given an opportunity to slot in five minute paid campaign messages as part of the election broadcasting in the run up to the May 19 presidential and parliamentary elections. This follows an agreement between the Electoral Commission of Malawi and MBC to open up the state broadcasterÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s airwaves to opposition parties campaign messages for a fee.
Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â The commission announced two weeks ago that they had agreed with MBC and Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS), a privately owned radio station, to record and broadcast messages for parties campaigning for the May 19 elections. The parties however, have reportedly made individual choices.
Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Spokesperson for the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) Ishmael Chafukira, told the Daily Times Newspaper that MBC refused to air their messages and that was why the party switched to other radio stations.
Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œMBC refused to air our advertisement, that is why we used other stations,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â he said, without explaining the reasons why MBC declined the adverts.
Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â There was no immediate comment from representatives of MBC, to explain this allegation. There is however widespread speculation that MBC is hitting back at the opposition which denied the state broadcaster state financial support as a result of its dominance of the outgoing parliament.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Budgetary allocations are approved by parliament. The United Democratic Front (UDF) party on the other hand, is reported to have turned down the offer to use the MBC. Its spokesman Rob Jamieson, former managing director of The Chronicle Newspaper said his party declined the offer because of the limited time they were allocated.
Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWe could not go to MBC and record a five minute message per week, that is too little time, he said.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Parties such as the Alliance for Democracy (AFORD) chose Capital FM and ZBS radio stations, while UDF opted for Joy FM, ZBS and Capital FM.
The outgoing Malawi Parliament has for two consecutive years (2007-2008/2008-2009) denied MBC funding, on grounds that the state-controlled broadcaster is biased towards the government. Since then, MBC has given a blackout to the opposition, including producing programmes that have demonised opposition party leaders in the run up to the May 19 general elections.