A couple of people have asked why it is only now that we are wanting to let Chitipa hear. They wonder why Trans World Radio (TWR) did not already reach Chitipa on FM. This is a valid and relevant question and I thought I should explain. The answer will be a bit long and historical.
As most may recall, before the years of the 1990s, most broadcasters around the world were using Shortwave and Medium Wave bands and so it was with TWR as it transmitted to Malawi from Manzini, Swaziland from 1974. Those long distance signals covered all places within and outside Malawi with productions (in Chichewa and Chitumbuka) from Malawi done by people like Mr. Pearson Chunga from the mid 1980s. Those broadcasts covered all Malawi (including Chitipa), most of Southern and Central Africa.
Due to political changes in Africa (towards multiparty system of government and technological changes in transmission, the FM signal started to be accepted in Africa and in Malawi in the 1990s. This is why MBC introduced Radio 2FM and also Malawi saw the birth of the first private FM station: Radio ABC in Lilongwe in March 1995. However at that time, TWR had already started the process of setting up an FM signal. This however did not materialise until December 2000 when Trans World Radio Blantyre FM was born. This was a passionate desire of then National Director of TWR Malawi late Willie Musopole.
In an effort to reach most of Malawi on FM, government in July 2001 granted TWR the permission to cover the whole country on FM. For this to happen, TWR was to require a network of no less than 12 transmitters to reach all areas including Chitipa.
The Board of TWR Malawi, TWR international and partners resolved to move the playout centre from Blantyre to Lilongwe in August 2004. This central repositioning of the FM station was to enable TWR maximize on its resources and potential reach. So the FM expansion drive was vigorously undertaken from 2001 to 2006 by the end of which TWR reached Mzuzu on FM. Many leaders would recall how late Rev. Patrick Semphere led the expansion project ensuring TWR is loud and clear.
In 2011, a new transmission site was added in Mchinji. But due to financial challenges, the FM expansion project was put on hold and this is why even Rumphi, Karonga and Chitipa were not getting the FM signal. Of course they were still receiving some local programme content through Shortwave from Manzini, Swaziland but till 2014 when this service was decommissioned.
As many Malawians may recall, it was in 2018 that TWR turned to and challenged them to give money to help buy transmission equipment to let Karonga hear. This was first time that Malawians were to help fellow Malawians get TWR signal on FM. About 15 million Kwacha ($21,000) was successfully raised and in March 2020, people in Karonga and parts of the Misuku hills of Chitipa started hearing TWR on FM. This was the 11th transmitter site installed but indeed for the first time with local funding. TWR Malawi felt it could not continue waiting for donations from outside but rather challenge its listeners to bless fellow Malawians.
The Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) gave TWR a national sound broadcast licence and hence expects TWR to indeed cover the whole country on FM. Even though it has taken twenty years to reach Chitipa, we believe that we need to complete that FM expansion task.
TWR Malawi counts on its listeners, friends and partners to raise 30 million Kwacha (est. $38,000) this year 2021 which will not only help let Chitipa hear but also enable us promote the rights and freedoms of persons with disabilities including those with albinism. We have the confidence not only following what happened in 2018 but because the 12th transmitter represents completeness of the original FM signal plan and possibly biblical order. This will also let TWR reach people of Chitipa and surrounding areas with the word of God so that lasting fruit is produced.