Regulation: Malawi reorganises FM Band

By Lameck Masina
BLANTYRE, Malawi — In March, Malawi’s communications regulator,
Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA), embarked on a drive aimed
to refarm or reorganize its radio frequencies in an effort
to manage interference and FM frequency congestion.
In July 2018, MACRA stopped issuing radio broadcast licenses due to
saturation in the 87.5 to 108 MHz
band, meaning it temporarily could not accommodate
new radio stations.
The decision to address the problem followed a recommendation from
Davood Molkdar, managing director for Casitel, an independent
consulting firm that MACRA hired in March to help with the country’s
spectrum and frequency audit.
MACRA Director of Broadcasting Fegus Lipenga
told journalists, when unveiling the outcome of the
audit in Blantyre in December, that the refarming would
require some broadcasters with two or more transmitters
in close vicinity to “reduce transmitting power to avoid
Lipenga also explained that in addition, “Other
broadcasters would be reassigned new frequencies, and
that the initiative would economically benefit broadcasters
since they’ll eventually be using fewer transmitters.”
For the past few years Malawi has witnessed a saturation
of the FM band mainly due to the increased growth
of the broadcasting sector.
The radio boom followed the liberalization of the
airwaves after the passage of the Communications
Act in 1998.
According to MACRA, Malawi today has
more than 80 licensed broadcasters, 56 of
which are radio stations and 27 are television.
MACRA set up a 12-member task force comprising
broadcasters and officials from MACRA to implement the scheme.
The task force is responsible
for collecting data on current
FM license allocations, gathering data on actual occupancy
and obtaining statistics on FM
Following the initial March
spectrum and frequency audit,
MACRA asked Zodiak Broadcasting Station to remove
four transmitters, Radio Islam
to remove two and Times Radio to remove one because
they were believed to interfere with other stations.
But, said Mussa Abdul, head engineer for Radio
Islam “The final decision will be reached upon recommendation
from the task force, which is currently going
around the country assessing whether a radio station
really needs to remove a transmitter or if it can resolve
the issue by reducing antenna power or relocating to a
new frequency.”
In the meantime, MACRA lifted the suspension on
issuance of radio licenses in early December and has
begun inviting new applications.
Lameck Masina is a multimedia freelance journalist based in
Blantyre, Malawi. In addition to writing
for Radio World, he files for other international media
organizations including Voice of America, African
Business Magazine, African Arguments and Zitamar
Radio World