Icasa halts issuing of community radio licenses

Regulation & Policy

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa recently placed a moratorium on the issuing of new community radio broadcasting licenses, saying that there are no frequencies available in metro areas anymore.

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has recently halted the issuing of community radio broadcasting licenses.

Communications Minister Faith Muthambi said the authority will issue a formal notice and communicate its decision to lift the moratorium once all processes have been completed and it is ready for licensing.

“The authority has recently imposed a moratorium on the issuing of community radio broadcasting licenses. The rational for this moratorium is threefold: the spectrum constraints in the metropolitan areas – there are no frequencies available in all the metros; ICASA is reviewing the licensing regime for class licences and for community radio in particular, the authority has come to the realisation that it is not prudent to allow the mushrooming of these services without adequate safeguards and finally ICASA is currently working on an overhaul of the regulatory and the licensing framework for community broadcasters.

“This will be finalised in the 2016/17 financial year and will be in consultation with all key stakeholders,” she said.
Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA)

Minister Muthambi said the Grant Funding and Non-financial Support to Community and Small Commercial Media had been negatively impacted by the board not being able to form a quorum towards the end of the 2014/15 financial year.

“The Media Development and Diversity Agency [MDDA] delivered in the 2014/15 financial year despite facing challenges of the board not forming a quorum as well as a high vacancy rate. The agency managed to achieve 56% of the key deliverables that were committed for the 2014/15 financial year,” she said.

Of the targeted 21 new community media projects, Minister Muthambi said only five were approved, while the amount of grant and seed funding allocated to small commercial media was also under target.

The new community and small commercial media projects approved during the financial year covered all provinces in South Africa, with the exception of Gauteng.

In the community broadcast sector, financial support covered digital on-air and production studio equipment, transmission costs and a contribution towards salaries and operational costs.

The projects included Indonsakusa Community Radio (ICORA FM), which broadcasts in the Uthungulu District Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal in 100% isiZulu.

Sekhukhune Community Radio is licensed to broadcast in Sekhukhune District Municipality in the Limpopo in 92% Sepedi, 3% isiNdebele and 5% English, while Kumkani FM, a youth radio, is licensed to broadcast in the Buffalo City Metropolitan area in the Eastern Cape in 60% isiXhosa, 30% English and 10% Afrikaans.

In the community print sector, financial support was granted for printing, distribution, personnel, operational and capital expense costs.

The two projects approved included Mamre News, a new project of the Mamre Community Development Trust, comprising an eight-page monthly tabloid published in isiXhosa, English and Afrikaans and distributed to the City of Cape Town Metropolitan area in the Western Cape.

Ledig Sun, a monthly newspaper published in English, Setswana and isiZulu, is distributed in the Bojanala District Municipality of the North West Province.

Funding support for printing, office rental, distribution, stipends and bank charges was awarded to three small commercial media projects.

These were Phetoho News, based in the Thabo Mofutsanyane District Municipality of the Free State and publishing in 60% Sesotho and 40% English; the Kuruman Chronicle Newspaper, a 40 % English and 60 % Setswana newspaper distributed in the John Taolo Gaetseye District Municipality of the Northern Cape, and Bushbuckridge News, a weekly commercial newspaper, which publishes in iSipedi, siSwati and English and is distributed in Mpumalanga’s Ehlanzeni District Municipality.

The agency, however, experienced a high staff turnover, mainly due to the unsettling environment brought about by leadership changes. Of the 32 approved positions, there was a total staff complement of 19 at the end of the period under review. The staff profile percentage of black employees was 100% of the overall staff complement, with female employees constituting 73%.

Despite the lack of capacity, Minister Muthambi said there were a number of positive developments during the 2014/15 financial year.

Quality of service monitoring was performed in Limpopo, Northwest, Northern Cape and Free State.

With regard to cross-border coordination, bilateral meetings between Lesotho and South Africa were held as well as Mozambique and South Africa to resolve signal spillage challenges.

As far as research collaboration is concerned, Memorandum of Understandings between ICASA and Wits University, Pretoria University and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) were signed for the purpose of collaboration in spectrum management.

In spectrum licensing, 2972 frequency spectrum licenses were issued and the authority regarded 2709 licenses cancellations.

Source: My Broadband 21 October 2015