Workers at Ufulu, which is owned by former President Joyce Banda who is a member of the Chakwera led Tonse-Alliance, have confirmed that the station is off-air and they are only reaching their audience through live-streaming and Facebook posts.
“Most of the workers have gone for annual leave, but the management is in talks with MACRA,” one worker told the local media.
Over the past five months, MACRA has been demanding radio and television stations to pay licence arrears or risk revocation of licences. Licences for Galaxy Radio, Joy Radio, Sapitwa FM and Rainbow Television have so far been revoked by the regulatory authority.
Rainbow Television’s licence was revoked even though the media house settled the K10.3 million it owed the regulator. On the other hand, Capital FM had its licence revoked but it successfully re-applied for a new one after settling its licence fees amounting to K14 million.
In August, Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) said over 200 full-time and part-time media practitioners and support staff lost jobs at the stations whose licences were revoked; including 70 at Rainbow Television, Ufulu FM (34) and Joy Radio (40).
MISA condemned the action by MACRA, saying broadcasters had already raised concerns that annuall fees to MACRA are pegged in US dollars and are exorbitant and that the broadcasters also have to pay monthly fees to MTL and MBDNL yet business has generally not been smooth in the last few years due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the general poor performance of the economy.
The media body said the revocation of the licences under the Chakwera administration is washing away the media and democratic gains of the past 29 years.
“The issues that are leading to the revocation of licences are not new. Past administrations did not close down stations for delaying to pay license fees. We believe the decision not to close down stations was due to respect for fundamental rights including media freedom, access to information and economic rights of hundreds of Malawians employed by the affected media outlets,” MISA said in a statement.
However, MACRA Director General, Daud Suleman has always insisted that the regulatory body is only following the law.