MultiChoice Africa Holdings (MAH) has recently engaged with the Ministry of Information & Digitization and the Ministry of Finance in Malawi regarding the challenging regulatory landscape it faces in the country. In a virtual meeting held on August 9, 2023, representatives from MAH expressed their concerns over the regulatory environment, which has led to the withdrawal of DStv services from the Malawian market.
In a letter addressed to Hon. Moses Kunkuyu MP of the Ministry of Information & Digitization and Hon. Sosten Gwengwe MP of the Ministry of Finance, Dr. Keabetswe Modimoeng, Group Executive of Corporate Affairs & Stakeholder Relations at MAH, provided an update on the situation. The letter highlighted the ongoing issues between MultiChoice Malawi (MCM) and the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) that have culminated in the decision to withdraw DStv services in the country.
The letter outlines the business arrangement between MAH and MCM, emphasizing that MCM operates as an independent entity with its own shareholders, directors, and employees. MCM is responsible for providing administrative support and consumer-related services to international DStv subscribers in Malawi.
Key Concerns Raised by MAH:
- Regulatory Hostility: MAH expressed concerns over the hostile regulatory approach that has extended beyond the existing licensing framework. The conflation of roles between MCM and MAH has led to a regulatory environment that negatively impacts the investment environment and the growth of business in Malawi.
- Scope of Subscription Management Service (SMS) License: MAH pointed out that MCM’s SMS license does not cover the entire DStv service, which is provided by MAH outside Malawi. Despite clear communications about MCM’s role, MACRA has treated MCM as a proxy for MAH, leading to undue regulatory pressure on MCM.
- Content Regulations: MAH raised concerns about proposed Content Regulations that seek to regulate foreign-based broadcasters like MAH. These regulations extend the Authority’s jurisdiction beyond traditional broadcasting services, potentially affecting the business model and investment environment.
Proposed Way Forward:
MAH proposed a way forward to address the current challenges and create an investor-friendly environment:
- Role Clarification: MAH suggests that the Authority should regulate MCM appropriately as an SMS provider, adhering to the provisions of the Communications Act, 2016. This would help avoid unnecessary broadcasting obligations on MCM.
- Consultation on International Broadcasting Services: MAH recommends opening a consultation process to determine suitable and enforceable solutions for licensing international broadcasting services. This process could involve requirements for foreign services to notify and file tariffs with the Authority.
- Tariff Adjustments: Pending the finalization of the regulatory framework review, MAH proposes that they be allowed to provide services at the tariffs implemented in August 2023. They would notify the Authority of any further tariff adjustments.
MAH’s letter also noted its commitment to resolving the issues and finding a lasting solution that benefits subscribers in Malawi. They remain open to further discussions and clarifications on the matter.
The withdrawal of DStv services in Malawi underscores the importance of a balanced regulatory environment that promotes investment while protecting consumer interests. It remains to be seen how the Malawian government and regulatory authorities will respond to MAH’s concerns and proposed solutions.