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Pretoria - Radio Pretoria lost its legal battle against the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) in the High Court in Pretoria on Thursday.
Judge Neil Tuchten dismissed the radio station's application to be allowed to continue transmitting to its rural relay stations in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, North West, and Mpumalanga on technical grounds.
Icasa granted a bouquet of three licences to Radio Pretoria in 2010 and 2011, prompting it to carry on broadcasting not only in Pretoria and its surrounding areas, but also to its rural relay stations in the mistaken belief that it was licensed to do so.
Icasa in October last year gave Radio Pretoria 14 days to stop operating the rural relay stations because it did not have a licence.
Their licences only permitted broadcasts for greater Pretoria and surrounds, and only on 102.4Mhz.
Radio Pretoria previously took the licensing authority to the Supreme Court of Appeal for the right to broadcast.
Tuchten said Radio Pretoria should have studied the texts of the licences to ensure it had been granted all it had asked for, but did not. It never applied for licences for its rural relay station operations, or for the court to set aside the three licences. There was no legal basis on which the court could grant the relief it sought.
He said Icasa's requirement that all equipment and facilities necessary for the broadcasts must be within one municipal area, however, seemed irrational.
Tuchten concluded that Radio Pretoria's application was misconceived.
“There will no doubt be a further effort by Radio Pretoria to obtain the necessary licences to enable it lawfully to continue serving members of its target community who receive their signals through the rural relay stations.
“At its heart, this case concerns the rights to freedom of expression and the right of all persons in this country to enjoy their culture, use their language and to form, join and maintain cultural associations and other organs of civil society,” Tuchten said.
Icasa as an organ of state is enjoined by section 7(2) of the Constitution to protect, promote and fulfil such rights.
“One hopes that Icasa will be able to use its expertise to help Radio Pretoria find ways to regularise its rural relay station operations,” Tuchten said.