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Malawian Media Consumption, Part II: Television

July 16th, 2008 | Jonathan Gray

Only in very wealthy areas does everyone have a television. Communal watching is more common, therefore, either at a successful neighbor’s house, or at a bar or restaurant. To give you an idea, none of the interviewers I met (all of whom are high school grads, around 16% of the country, I’m told) had televisions at home, Or to come at this another way, when Malawi and Egypt were playing an important qualifying soccer match, I took the first half as an opportunity to walk through town to listen out for where televisions existed. The video shows did great business, the bars and restaurants were packed, but that was about it: everywhere else had radio or nothing.

Malawi only has one television station of its own, TVM, which plays a heck of a lot of political coverage – ranging from the sometimes boring, sometimes very exciting parliamentary coverage (I heard on the radio a segment where they were debating whether the president had raped the country, whether a country could be raped, how one could rape a constitution, etc.) to simply placing the camera at an official dinner, without the mic anywhere relevant. It also plays Malawian music videos and other local stuff such as soccer games, news, or ceremonies, or religious programming (more below). So for anything else, one needs satellite, which is relatively cheap compared to the States, but still often prohibitively expensive for Malawians.

All the same, I was told that successful people may get satellite and share costs with others, or allow neighbors to watch, collecting a small fee when particularly important or popular events are on, such as an English Premiership match (in case you’re counting, Arsenal boasted the most fans, given their relatively large number of African players). Different satellite packages exist, and clearly a lot is available, since my first (Indian-owned) hotel had a few Indian channels, while the Korean-owned hotel that I stayed at in the capital, Lilongwe, had several Korean stations. More commonly on, though, are South Africa’s sports stations (especially with Euro 2008 on while I was there, these were constantly on during game time), BBC World News, a few South African music video stations, Botswana TV, movie channels, Sky News and/or CNN, and God TV.

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