Namibia’s Communications Bill set to boost the Sector’s Growth

Telecoms

Prime Minister Nahas Angula says the Information Communications Bill is not designed to fulfil the expectations of only one institution, but the sector as a whole.

Addressing the opening of a workshop on the draft bill, Angula said the communication sector was in transition and was generating a great deal of dynamism.

"This of course denotes that a divergent course of views will exist. It is therefore key that we remain aloof from the petty matters which may be dealt with in detailed drafting, and use this platform as the opportunity to give insight into our positions, ultimately guiding and ultimately shaping Government policy," he said.

Those in the know said that the bill was drafted primarily to regulate the telecommunications sector, and that broadcasting was included as "a sort of afterthought".

According to the draft bill, the NCC, which issues television and radio licences, also grants licences in the telecommunications sector.

As soon as the new bill becomes law, Telecom Namibia must indicate within 90 days to the revamped NCC, which will then be called the Communications Authority, for which telecommunications services it requires a licence.

Under the new legislation, licence holders must be 51 per cent Namibian controlled.

The new communications authority will in future be able to force owners of ICT infrastructure to lease it to other companies to spur competition.

Radio licences will only be issued for five years and television licences for eight years, with the option of renewal.

The authority must also monitor all radio and TV stations to ensure that they report in a fair and neutral way and that advertisements do not exceed 20 per cent of daily broadcasting time.

However, these rules will not apply to the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), which will be exempted.

Any licence holders operating outside the scope of their licences will be fined N$1 million or three years' imprisonment.

The three-day workshop will deal with role of the new authority, its powers, its funding and its relationship with the Ministries of Information and Works.

It will also deal with the regulation of competition in the information sector.

Angula said Government was committed to achieving liberalisation of the information sector.

"The creation of a commission is part of the process, and so is the issuance of a second mobile licence.

However, we need to concretise a policy attached to a portfolio minister, and hence the importance of the outcome of this process," he said.

(Source: The Namibian)