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Macra revises licencing criteria

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NGWIRA—We will take into account the applicant’s past conduct

Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) has said individuals and firms seeking broadcasting licence will no longer undergo the rigorous vetting process.

According to Macra’s Communications Manager, Clara Ngwira, those seeking a broadcasting licence will be required to submit their applications along with certificate of incorporation and evidence of technical capacity.

Previously, Macra used to carry out a needs assessment to find out areas that needed broadcasting services and would, thereafter, advertise in the papers for people to apply and operate in the areas the regulator felt required such services.

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“But now we have stopped that and we are entertaining applications from interested people,” Ngwira said.

She said for a television licence, the rollout period is 12 months while that of radio is six months from the date the licence was gazzetted.

The regulations also require the licensee to apply for a licence renewal six months before it expires.

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However, Macra will have to scrutinise the conduct of the media house before renewing the licence.

“We will take into account the applicant’s past conduct and this will include level of compliance to the Communications Act, regulations and the licence terms and conditions, timeliness in payment of licence fees and levies as well as financial and technical capacity among others,” Ngwira said.

She said this after Macra concluded its sensitisation campaign to the newly gazzetted broadcasting regulations.

Macra has been meeting broadcasting licensees at regional level so that they understand their obligations as they serve the nation.

“The regulations provide minimum standards of obligations to be met by the broadcasters and we believe that if they can abide by what has been laid down in the document, there will be great improvement in the sector,” Ngwira said.

On live broadcasts and phone-in programmes, all broadcasters are required to use a profanity delay machine which aids in blocking obscene, unwanted or offensive content.

The regulations were drafted in 2011 and went through stakeholder consultations before they were submitted to the Ministry of Justice for final authentication.

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