Local News / 22 October 2019, 12:51pm/ Molefi Sompane
Free State based community radio The Rock FM logo: Image The Rock FM facebook page
Bloemfontein: It has been reported that over 40 community radio stations in the country including about 5 of the Free State based radio stations, will be off air after Independent Communication Authority of South Africa (ICASA) cracked its whip over non compliance.
Although reports include among the reasons to be because of a lack of licences, funding and spiralling debt the National Community Radio Forum (NCRF) has defended its members of being attacked by the ICASA which “Should be empowering them.”
Thabang Pusoyabone who is the secretary for the NCRF, did not mince his words in a statement sent to The Insider, he said community radio in the country are under attack by stakeholders who should be empowering the advances “we made over the last 25 years, not destroying them”.
According to Pusoyabone the NCRF held an emergency meeting of its Central Executive Committee in Durban trying to find ways in which the move by ICASA can be halted while stations involved are helped.
“The CEC has noted that this is the second onslaught on the community radio sector, where over 40 stations have either been shut down or threatened to be shut down. The real threat to the community radio sector is that it has become easier for the state to close community media projects. That is risky for media freedom and diversity in the country,” Pusoyabone said.
He said it was resolved that Icasa should suspend its decision to close the stations while it engages them.
“They should rather use the planned workshop roadshow to raise the level of compliance through education.
Community radio sector and supporters should be mobilised to stage a protest in the form of a march to persuade, by a list of grievances, Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu; Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams; Icasa’s acting chairperson Keabetswe Modimoeng; and Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) board chairperson Ndivhuho Norman Munzhelele.”
NCRF continues to accuse the government by failing to deliver on its promises to spend at least 30% of its advertising budget to support community media and to bail out signal distribution costs of Sentec.
It also called on all who supported freedom of speech, media diversity and access to information to join it on November 8, the landmark occasion to march.
Speaking to Icasa spokesperson Paseka Maleka he said Icasa was not aware of 43 stations facing closure but agreed that over 20 stations were in default with the Icasa by operating with no licence after icasa denied to renew their licences.
“Our records show that 29 community radio stations are facing closure because they do not have broadcasting licences. We are dealing with this matter as per the individual station not as a group.”
meanwhile the MDDA acting Chief Executive Officer Zukiswa Potye said the MDDA was extremely concerned about the closure and impending closure of the stations after the agency paid for the new stes of studios for some of the affected stations.
“This problem is not new and the MDDA, as does Icasa, runs compliance training workshops and other capacity building interventions.
“The MDDA, with other stakeholders, including the Ministry in the Presidency, continues to work on a lasting solution to the community radio sector’s inability to sometimes fully comply with the regulations, including their broadcast licence conditions, which compel them to start a renewal licence application six months before their licence expires,” Potye said.
Some of the Free State stations include Lentswe FM in Parys, Mozolo FM in Kroonstad, The Rock FM in Welkom, Naledi FM in Senekal, Mohokare Community Radio in Zastron which has never been on air.
Sometime ago Icasa shut down Karabo fm in Sasolburg amid the same reasons.