The 2019 Tripartite Elections were a major landmark for MACRA’s regulatory work in broadcasting. Not only did the organization monitor the largest number of broadcasting stations but also hired the largest number of broadcasting stringers to monitor and analyse content in line with broadcasters’ elections code of conduct.
In Malawi, broadcasting remains the largest source of news and information with over 80 broadcasters currently on the air waves. Almost half of these are community broadcasters located in the rural and remote areas of the area. MACRA’s broadcasting monitoring unit, therefore, had some work cut out for them to ensure fair coverage and a level playing field for all political candidates during the elections period.
This is on top of MACRA acting as a secretariat for the Elections Broadcasting Complaints Committee. Malawi Law Commission, Media Council of Malawi and Centre for Multiparty Democracy are part of the committee which is chaired by the Malawi Electoral Commission.
To ensure that MACRA was monitoring all broadcasters across the country, the authority hired 25 broadcasting monitors who were stationed in broadcasting stations across the breadth and width of the country.
Among other duties, the broadcasting monitors were analyzing content looking for compliance, fair and balanced news coverage, airtime allocation, accessibility as well as the quality of broadcasting.
MACRA managed to monitor 45 broadcasting stations, 19 of which were national radios and televisions and the remaining 26 were community broadcasting stations.
The monitoring reports on average show remarkable improvement in how broadcasting stations were opening up to diverse views in their commentary of the tripartite elections.
Speaking at the exit meeting for the stringers, acting director for legal affairs Dan Chiwoni hailed the stringers for their dedication and professionalism showed during the election monitoring exercise.
“During the election period the spotlight was on MACRA to see how the regulator would handle the coverage of political players during the official campaign period and the official announcement of results. As a regulator, we registered a number of successes one of them is that most radio stations opened up their airwaves to all political parties” he said.