Digital TV company gets MACRA dosage

 

…we are not a broadcaster- Impression Media

…MACRA jumps to regulate mobile apps

Impressions TV, which jumped in the air, when Multichoice announced its exit from the Malawi market, had a rude awakening on Monday afternoon as the tough regulator- Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) shut them down and got its owners arrested.

MACRA Director General Daud Suleiman confirmed the development in a statement saying it was illegal to broadcast without a licence. 

Social media as awash with court warrants for a good part of the day, revealing that MACRA had applied for the warrant of arrest, search and closure of Impressions TV which had just embarked on advertising to lure customers to its services.

“Impression Media Limited Managing Director Mr Patridge Nthakomwa was arrested by the Malawi Police for illegal broadcasting and the offices were sealed,” said Suleiman, whose main achievements at MACRA has been battling out service providers and closing down some.

Senior Government officials from the Ministry of Information have been visiting and commending Impression Media Limited, sending social media into wondering how they could not have known they were entertaining an illegal entity.

“MACRA reminds the public that broadcasting without a license is illegal under the Communications Act. Section 187 of the Communications Act CAP 68.01 of the Laws of Malawi states that the public cannot broadcast without a licence,” says Suleiman.

On February 25, State owned Malawi Broadcasting Corporation beamed the Malawi and Lesotho game which Impression Media Limited said, “Thank you to all viewers who watched the Malawi/Lesotho game beamed live through our impression app.”

Impressions Media Ltd on Tuesday schooled MACRA they were not a broadcaster and revealed how the regulatory wants to start regulating the Internet content as they don’t own any studio nor broadcast anything.

“It is important to clarify that Impression Media is not a broadcaster as it has been alleges in the order. We are an OTT (Over the Top) platform, a media service offered directly to viewers via the Internet. OTT bypasses cable, broadcast and satellite television platforms,” says the company which would raise the question the capacity of MACRA management if they understand the modern technology systems.

Impression Media contends that since it is only a third party distributor that does not need offices, it sought MACRAs guidance which asked it still to apply for a broadcast licence.

The bizzare guidance from MACRA to regulate Internet content through applications is likely to amaze tech industry as Malawi could be the only country in the world to licence mobile applications and third party distributors.

MACRA is already engaged in another legal tussle against Multichoice a dominant digital TV provider in sub-Saharan Africa and Ministers of Finance Sosten Gwengwe and Information Moses Kunkuyu are all scrambling to find a solution to the tussle.

MACRA insiders claim the DG works alone that the Board was arranging to meet to discuss the developments after Multichoice called the country’s regulatory environment as “hostile and fraught with uncertainty.”