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Joy TV station ordered to stop broadcasting

(MISA/IFEX) - On 29 October 2007, the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) ordered Joy TV to immediately stop all television broadcasts until the station is issued appropriate radio and broadcasting licenses.

Joy TV- a sister company to Joy Radio - has been held up in a wrangle with the country's communications regulator after it challenged the Macra Board in court, describing it as illegal.

In the latest development, Joy TV's project manager Tailosi Bakili expressed surprise over the directive, saying the television station had applied for a court injunction stopping Macra from blocking its operations.

According to Macra's letter to the station's manager, the regulator expressed concern that Joy TV was broadcasting without a license, which it said expired on 31 March 2007.

"Carrying out such an activity without a licence is prohibited and amounts to a criminal offence under the Communications Act of 1998; you are hereby ordered to immediately stop any television broadcasting or related activity until you apply for and are issued with appropriate radio and broadcasting licences under the Act," read the letter.

The letter further warned that if the station flouts the directive, Macra would proceed to take appropriate measures against it, as stipulated in the same Act.

Joy Television Limited is expected to be Malawi's first private TV station. There is only one state-owned television station, Television Malawi (TVM), in existence.

This development comes after Joy TV wrote the regulator on 28 August 2007 complaining that it had delayed in giving them a Studio Transmission Links (STL) Frequency, which could have allowed the station to conduct studio broadcasting.

Macra's board was dissolved following a lawsuit filed by the station's sister company, Joy Radio, describing Macra's board as unlawfully constituted and lacking an institutional memory.

The tit-for-tat battle between Joy's proprietors and the regulator started early this year when Joy, through its lawyer, got a High Court injunction restraining Macra from blocking its operations. Joy argued that Macra could not transact any business to do with communications because it lacked the mandate to enforce and regulate communications in the country.

The High Court in Blantyre nullified the composition of the Macra board because, among other issues, its members were unqualified and the appointment of the members was not gazetted as required by law.

President Bingu wa Mutharika appointed the Macra board, as well as the boards of various other statutory corporations, on 1 March 2006.

There is a strong link between Joy Radio and Television and former President Bakili Muluzi. It is believed that he owns the two institutions. Currently Muluzi is not on good terms with President Bingu wa Mutharika, whom he accused of betrayal for ditching Muluzi's United Democratic Front (UDF) party after it ushered him into power.

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