Local Malawi television content
Two years ago while at a filmmakers and distributors conference, an issue was raised about film and documentary distribution in Africa particularly English speaking countries. I learnt that most television stations prefer to broadcast local country content above anything else. Stations like SABC Africa only accept and buy material with an African theme. Occasionally they decline new content because they already have too much material yet to be broadcast.
This brings me back home. A few years ago TVM used to broadcast a range of programmes from around Africa and beyond all the way to the Republic of China. I can’t competently comment on whether this is still the case. However, I can say that the station does sometimes constantly repeat some of it’s locally produced programmes, most outdated, and it has been the subject of many debates and commentaries. One can draw a few conclusions as to why this is the case.
TVM does not like buying content and I speak from experience. The station prefers to be paid for any content it gets even in the case where I assume they would not have anything to broadcast other than programmes that have already been broadcast before. The station is not usually known to go and collect news items either without being ferried to the location then getting paid allowances. We have all heard about musicians paying to have their music videos aired.
Another reason for repeats, I can only guess, could be the insistence on airing local content. While the argument for local content has its merits, it can also pose challenges. In a country where film and video production is neither encouraged nor adequately rewarded, it will always be difficult to find locally produced television material and good quality work for that matter. For those who are in the trade, video production equipment is not only expensive but very hard to come across locally without having to make a trip south of the Limpopo to find a wide range and a good deal. Regional and African productions will obviously not be an option as the producers demand payment for their work, a practice alien to TVM.
Is Government intervention the solution?
So what’s the solution? Perhaps it’s time for relevant stakeholders to actively encourage, recognise and reward local film producers in an effort to help create a wide variety of locally produced material. The solution could also lie in the fact that the world is virtually so much smaller than most people think and that local content is no longer that relevant to society. Or perhaps the problem lies within TVM itself – the culture, ethics and style.