Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) has warned local broadcasters using sports content, including the ongoing 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) and English Premier League without the permission of the rights holders that they rik a fine or closure.
In a statement signed by Macra director general Daud Suleman, the regulator says under Section 38 of the General Terms and Conditions for Content Licences, using other broadcasters’ content without permission is illegal.
The statement reads in part: “The Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority has observed that there are some broadcasters who are relaying and syndicating sports, news and programme content from international and local content providers without the authorisation [broadcasting rights] of the owners.
“This also includes providing commentary on sports content that requires authorisation or rights to be broadcast, for instance, local sports and the English Premier League.
“Please note that under Section 38 of the General Terms and Conditions for Content Licences, which form part of your licence, you are prohibited from violating any intellectual property rights of any person.
“It is, therefore, a serious breach of your licence to broadcast other broadcasters’ content without acquiring authorisation or broadcasting rights from the owners.”
The statement further says Section 21 of the General Terms and Conditions of broadcasters’ licence prohibits them from syndicating, relaying or rebroadcasting any programme material from any other source or station without the authority’s written authorisation.
Macra has since given the broadcasters seven days to provide written authorisation from the content rights holders or face shutdown.
The statement further reads: “The authority, therefore, requests all broadcasters that are relaying or syndicating content from local and international content providers such as TNM Super League, British Broadcasting Corporation, Deutsche Welle, Aljazeera, CNN, New World Television [for Africa Cup of Nations Tournament, SuperSport, Sky Sports [for English Premier League] and others to furnish the authority with authorisation or broadcasting rights from the content owners within seven days from the date of this letter.
One of the local broadcasters who opted for anonymity said Macra’s directive has caught them off-guard.
“Macra should have engaged us on the matter, rather than giving us seven days,” said the broadcaster.
But football analyst Patrick Zgambo said Macra’s action was long overdue.
He said: “I have been saying this for years. The worst part is they don’t even have the decency of acknowledging. They even get a sponsor and make money out of it.
“There is a boarderline which should not be crossed. content is work and owners have rights and at the very least acknowledge it than pretending you are on site and you alter that by even adding cosmetic ambience of atmosphere.”
In an interview yesterday, Football Association of Malawi commercial and marketing director Limbani Matola welcomed Macra’s directive, saying it will help enhance an enabling envioroment for commercialisation.
Some local radio stations do commentary on live foreign matches such as the EPL.