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Malawi’s Capital Radio Upgrades

Station makes first major upgrade since its inception in 1999

Capital Radio Presenter Chrissie Tafadzwa Kanjira in the on-air studio BLANTRYE, Malawi — Privately owned FM radio station Capital Radio is upgrading its studios. Kondwani Kalambule, head of the station’s technical department, explains that the project began in the on-air studio where the station installed a modular Soundcraft RM100 on-air console.

“We are also now using the Telos Hx2 digital telephone hybrid, three Røde mics and a digital STL from Broadcast Solution Electronics,” said Kalambule.

Studio gear

U.K.-based Broadcast Warehouse installed the studio gear, while BSE provided the STL and three BSE 1 kW FM transmitters. The station also replaced its old studio chairs with new swivel chairs for the comfort and agility of its presenters and guests. This is the first major upgrade for Capital Radio since its inception in 1999, barring the replacement of a few mics and a CD deck. Kalambule says that they hardly experienced any problems with the older gear, but they thought the time was right to modernize the station’s equipment so as to better keep up with technological trends.

“We decided to stick to Soundcraft because we never had any regrets with the firm’s products and also because of the similarity between the previous console and the new one, thus staff was quickly able to familiarize themselves with the new desk,” said Kalambule. “The main advantage of the RM100, when compared to the precedent console, is that is can accommodate more panelists during the live programs.”

Sam Kabambe, presentation department head, agrees that radio in general needs to remain relevant and competitive in the market by keeping pace with the changing technological world.

Kondwani Kalambule, head of technical department, adjusting gear in the on-air studio. “The new Soundcraft console is certainly living up to our standards because we are now able to host four panelists simultaneously, each with their own mic,” said Kabambe. The sound quality has also improved, so our listeners can enjoy clearer output.”

Kalambule says, due to the longevity and durability of the original gear, the station couldn’t simply leave it in a corner unused.

Live streaming
“We are transferring the older on-air equipment to the production studio where reporters and producers can conduct interviews and produce programs,” he said. “We are shifting the original 12-channel Soundcraft console to that studio and will relocate the Behringer mic and Eurorack UB504 mixer from the main production studio to a smaller production studio, which previously had none.”

Kalambule explains that with the present modernization process, the station is about 75 percent closer to digitization. The station targets 20- to 60-year-olds using a network of six transmitters strategically situated across the country’s major cities and towns. To extend its reach, the station also recently purchased three BSE 1 kW FM transmitters — in addition the six existing transmitters — for the central district of Dowa and northern district of Karonga.

Kalambule said the new transmitters would be installed at the end of April and would increase the station’s transmission coverage to districts like Kasungu, Mchinji, Ntchisi, Nkhota-kota and Salima in the central region and Rumphi, Karonga and Chitipa in the northern region, augmenting its reach to about 95 percent of the country’s population of 13 million people. He also says the station acquired one more computer from a locally based technology company, in addition to the two they had already.

“Now we have three computers; two are used for music playout, and the other one is for social media, such as Facebook, the Internet and news reading for the presenters. We may invest in more computers in the future, but at the moment, we feel three are enough for the on-air studio,” he said. Kalambule adds that the station, which partners with several international broadcasters such as the VOA, BBC and Deutsche Welle, also began streaming its programs live on Feb. 16. “We didn’t want to limit our reach to Malawian residents,” he said. “We are now proud that we will able to reach a global audience.”

Capital Radio is the fifth radio station in Malawi to offer live streaming. The others are Radio Islam, Radio Maria, Zodiak Broadcasting Station and 101 Power FM.

Lameck Masina reports on the industry for Radio World from Blantyre, Malawi.