The Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) recently awarded four television licenses and radio broadcasting licenses to some of the firms that had applied for licenses.
However, there has been an outcry from some of the applicants and some politicians that the awarding has not been transparent and fair.
But if transparency is a measurement of what Macra did was right or not, then we have to follow the steps taken throughout the process.
The organisation advertised in the newspapers for anyone aspiring to have a broadcasting license to apply. The applications were opened publicly at College of Medicine hall in full view of the applicants themselves who were invited to witness the occasion .
After the opening, the names of the applicants were printed in the newspapers and published in the government gazette for members of the general public to know the applicants and make any comments.
A thorough evaluation process followed where a team of experts in broadcasting, telecommunications, legal and management evaluated the bids. It also comprised of two external evaluators who are professionals in procurement and journalism.
When applying for a broadcasting licence, each and every applicant knows the evaluation criteria as it is stipulated in the bid document which is made available to all applicants before applications are submitted. The bid documents can be found in hard copy at Macra offices and in soft copy on Macra website.
Among other things, the evaluation looks at the financial capacity of the applicant, technical capacity of the applicant, broadcasting area of the applicant and need for broadcasting services in that area.
Other areas of interest are the appeal of the applicant's programme content and the general background of the applicant.
Much as many individuals and organizations would want to venture into the broadcasting business, it is not automatic that when somebody applies for a broadcasting licence, they will be issued with the same.
It is more or less like a job application; you are not guaranteed a job by a mere application. There is a procedure that Macra follows in order to grant one a broadcasting licence and the awarding of the licences is just part of that.
The call for applications is advertised in the newspapers and government gazette and interested parties are given up to one month to express their interests. After that there is the evaluation of the applications by a team of experts in broadcasting, telecommunications, management, procurement and legal.
The evaluations are then scrutinized by the Macra board which if satisfied endorses them.
Macra board has said that it will be giving the licences in phases. The eight broadcasting licences that have been awarded now by Macra are in the first phase and more are yet to be licenced in the second phase.
The Minister of Information and Civic Education Patricia Kaliati recently said that 14 more broadcasting applicants are being considered for the award of broadcasting licences. Maybe it would be appropriate to see whether that will be done before issuing any condemnation. The the door is not closed.
Interestingly, even the ones that ave been given the licences now will undergo license negotiations whereby they will be subjected to thorough and comprehensive interviews on their capacity and roll out obligations including digital broadcasting plans. After the negotiations they will be finally licenced by gazetting their licence.
A licence becomes effective only when published in the government gazette.
The procedures were followed and there is a strong promise that more licenses will be awarded to the qualifying remaining applicants. That is what is called transparency.
*The author is a freelance journalist