Pretoria – The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has noted the recent media statement issued by the National Community Radio Forum (NCRF) stating that the Authority has closed down 43 community radio stations; and that this is an onslaught against the community radio sector.
ICASA would like to put it on record that it has no plans, neither has it embarked on any mission, to shut down any validly operating community broadcasting service licensees. ICASA’s mandate is, among others; to ensure compliance by all licensees (including community broadcasting service licensees) with all applicable laws, regulations as well as licence terms and conditions.
In executing this mandate, ICASA has identified approximately 29 community radio stations (and not 43 as purported by the NCRF) who do not possess the required broadcasting licences to operate as community radio stations. In terms of section 7 of the Electronic Communications Act No. 36 of 2005 (the ECA) it is prohibited (and therefore unlawful) for any person to provide (or operate) a broadcasting service without a licence.
The community radio stations that were shut down or have been notified that they will be shut down, were afforded an opportunity to regularise their affairs but failed to do so. ICASA is therefore duty-bound to enforce the law and shut them down as it would be unlawful to allow them to continue to operate without licences.
“Whilst ICASA appreciates and supports the critical role that the community radio sector plays in promoting social cohesion, fostering diversity and uplifting or empowering our communities; ICASA will neither promote nor allow illegal broadcasting and illegal use of the radio frequency spectrum. It is for this reason that the closing down of any community radio station or any other licensee becomes a step that is taken as an absolutely last resort, after repeated instances of non-compliance and repeated attempts on the side of the Authority to get the licensees to remedy same,” says ICASA CEO, Mr Willington Ngwepe.
It is ICASA’s view that it would be helpful for the NCRF to collaborate with the regulator to assist the community broadcasting sector to comply with the requirements of the law and the regulations. “Such collaboration is essential to ensure sustainability of the sector so that it can fulfil its critical mandate in society,” states Ngwepe.
In an effort to deal with the challenges that have plagued the community broadcasting sector, ICASA conducted - through an extensive consultation process - a review of the regulatory framework for community broadcasting services. The new Community Broadcasting Service Regulations were published on 22 March 2019.
Pursuant to the coming into effect of the new regulations, ICASA announced the lifting of the moratorium on the licensing of community sound broadcasting services on 30 July 2019; and undertook to publish an invitation for prospective applicants to submit pre-registration notices within three months. The invitation will include a list of available frequencies in each district and local municipality as per the Terrestrial Broadcasting Frequency Plan 2013. The three months deadline expires on 31 October 2019. The Authority is still on track to meet this timeline.
In order to ensure that the community radio sector is adequately informed of the requirements of the new licensing framework as well as the implementation of the new regulations, ICASA is conducting workshops across the country. The first workshop was held on Friday, 18 October 2019 at ICASA Head Office in Centurion, and there will be further workshops to be held in other Provinces over the coming weeks. ICASA believes that these workshops will afford the community broadcasting sector an opportunity to engage and get clarity on the new regulatory framework and associated licensing process.
ICASA encourages all stakeholders to take advantage of the opportunity presented by the new regulatory framework for community broadcasting services to embed proper governance and compliance across all community broadcasting service licensees for the benefit of the communities they are meant to serve.
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