The High Court of Malawi has reserved to a date to-be-advised its ruling in the dispute between MultiChoice Malawi (MCM) and Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) on the adjustment of pay television premiums.
In the wrangle, Macra is accusing the service provider of flouting the law by not informing it about the proposed review, but MCM argues that it does not provide Digital Satellite Television (DStv) services as it only acts as a subscription management entity, a customer service for subscribers of MultiChoice Africa Holdings (MAH) DStv service.
The court, sitting in Lilongwe, on Friday heard three witnesses paraded in the judicial review matter on the decision by Macra board that MCM breached Section 74 of the Communications Act.
In his testimony, Macra director of telecommunications Edward Kauka said despite MCM not having the physical infrastructure to provide DStv services in the country, the law provides that as long as the content is being made available to viewers, a service is being provided.
Kita: No evidence that claimant adjusted tariffs
He said the licence regime does not look at the kind of technology used such as whether through satellite or fibre as what matters is whether subscribers are accessing content.
Kauka said the MCM licence, a subscription management service (SMS), was not different from that of MAH which is a subscription broadcasting service provider.
He said: “The same can be brought through Internet without any physical infrastructure. It does not matter what type of infrastructure whether physical or virtual as long as services reach Malawians.”
Another witness, Andrew Nyirenda, who is Macra director of economic regulation, told the court that although he is not a board member of Macra, he participated in the reasoning process for the board to reach its decision.
During cross-examination, lawyer representing MultiChoice, Wapona Kita, asked Nyirenda what the licence granted to MCM provides.
And in his oral submission, Kita urged the court to restrict itself to the language used in the licence granted to MCM and not the assumptions and interpretations of witnesses.
He said there is no evidence that the claimant adjusted the tariffs as MCM licence does not provide for that.
Said Kita: “This is a judicial review proceeding and the duty of the court is to review the decision-making process of the determination which was made by the board of Macra.”
On his part, lawyer representing Macra, Bernard Ndau, said MCM cannot claim not to have control over tariffs, saying the franchise agreement between MCM and MAH gives MCM room to adjust the tariffs by five percent.
The wrangle has seen MAH withdrawing its DStv services in Malawi.
Macra fined MCM to pay K19 million licence fees before the DStv services are withdrawn
The bone of contention is whether the scope of the licence for MCM includes the firm being responsible for DStv tariff adjustments or just collecting the tariffs.