D-day approaches for community radio stations fearing the axe

Community radio stations have been threatened with closure by the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) in a row over licence renewals.
Image: 123rf/Wavebreak Media

Some community radio stations may learn of their closure on Friday, when the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) is set to publish a list of unused broadcast frequencies – including those of stations whose licences have been suspended.

Icasa has announced that the list will be published alongside an invitation to potential broadcasters to apply for licences.

This follows a meeting between Icasa, the National Community Radio Forum (NCRF) and the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) last week to discuss concerns that Icasa was planning a spate of station closures.

Icasa said the move, affecting about 29 stations, was the result of non-compliance with licensing regulations, which require stations to renew their licences six months before they expire.

But some stations said they had been issued with closure notices even though they had applied for renewal.

The NCRF, which has been trying to establish which stations are scheduled to close, said the published list would be the first time it has been fully informed of the extent of the action.

NCRF secretary Thabang Pusoyabone said Icasa was unable to provide the organisation with a full list at last week’s meeting. “We insisted and they couldn’t give us the list. In fact, at one point the CEO mentioned that number could change,” he said.

“That’s a challenge if you are trying to come up with a solution and you don’t know who you’re assisting. You’re blind.”

In a statement last Friday, Icasa CEO Willington Ngwepe reiterated the authority’s position that it is unlawful for any community radio station to broadcast without a valid licence. He said the law did not allow Icasa to condone or grant exemptions for late applications from community broadcasters.

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