Cape Town - More than 40 community radio stations nationwide face a shut down because of a lack of licences, funding and spiralling debt.
Thabang Pusoyabone, secretary for the National Community Radio Forum (NCRF), said community radio in the country was under attack by stakeholders who should be empowering the advances “we made over the last 25 years, not destroying them”.
Pusoyabone said that on Friday the NCRF held an emergency meeting of its Central Executive Committee (CEC) in Durban to formulate a plan to respond to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) having shut down 43 stations.
“The CEC has noted that this is the second onslaught on the community radio sector, where over 40 stations have either been shut down or threatened to be shut down. The real threat to the community radio sector is that it has become easier for the state to close community media projects. That is risky for media freedom and diversity in the country,” Pusoyabone said.
He said at the meeting the CEC resolved that Icasa should rescind its decision to close the stations.
“They should rather use the planned workshop roadshow to raise the level of compliance through education. Community radio sector and supporters should be mobilised to stage a protest in the form of a march to persuade, by a list of grievances, Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu; Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams; Icasa’s acting chairperson Keabetswe Modimoeng; and Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) board chairperson Ndivhuho Norman Munzhelele.”
He said the government had not yet delivered on its promises to spend at least 30% of its advertising budget to support community media and to bail out signal distribution costs of Sentec.
Pusoyabone said the CEC called on all who supported freedom of speech, media diversity and access to information to join it on November 8, the landmark occasion to march.
Icasa spokesperson Paseka Maleka said Icasa was not aware of 43 stations facing closure.
“However, our records show that 29 community radio stations are facing closure because they do not have broadcasting licences.”
MDDA acting chief executive Zukiswa Potye said the MDDA was extremely concerned about the closure and impending closure of the stations.
“This problem is not new and the MDDA, as does Icasa, runs compliance training workshops and other capacity building interventions.
“The MDDA, with other stakeholders, including the Ministry in the Presidency, continues to work on a lasting solution to the community radio sector’s inability to sometimes fully comply with the regulations, including their broadcast licence conditions, which compel them to start a renewal licence application six months before their licence expires,” Potye said.
Some of the stations include Zibonele FM, UCT Community Radio, The Rock FM, Radio Kaap se Punt and Franschhoek Community Radio.
Bush Radio programme integrator Adrian Louw said as they were fighting to keep their station going financially through their crowdfunding campaign and engagements with government, "we are concerned to learn of developments to close up to 43 community radio stations in SA".
"Bush Radio strongly urges our democratically elected government to intervene in this matter. We ask ICASA to look at a positive resolution to help secure the future of the community radio sector," Louw said.