The National Community Radio Forum (NGF) is planning a protest march on November 8 against the closure of some 43 community radio stations across the country.
The stations include Radio Cape’s Point, The Rock FM in Welkom, Radio Renosterberg in the Northern Cape and Franschhoek Community Radio. These stations are estimated to employ about 1 200 people.
“We are currently in the planning phase of the march, but today we will give notice to the four institutions involved in the closure,” said Thabang Pusoyabone, the NGF’s secretary-general.
Paseka Maleka, a spokesperson for the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa), said the radio stations were closed because they had expired licenses and the radio stations did not renew the licenses again. “The decision to close the radio stations was not, as the NGF claims, taken to break freedom of the press and freedom of speech. Icasa also does not attack the community radio stations. It is about legislation and regulations. The radio stations do not comply with legislation. ”Icasa further said that they have only 29 radio stations in their sights and that they will not close stations whose licenses are in order.
Radio stations owe R180 million to various organizations such as the South African Revenue Service and the signal distributor Sentech. The NGF says it has asked for financial aid many times and believes the closure is a blatant attack on community radio stations.
“It is unfair that the radio stations should be shut down for money owed to Sentech, but the SABC, which is wasting money, can still keep its doors open and get life shackles from the government,” he says.
Last year, Icasa and Sentech closed 17 community radio stations because the radio stations owed Sentech about R35 million. “The SABC owes billions of rands and gets those billions of rands. Last year, during discussions with the Department of Communications, we were promised to receive a lifeline. We are still waiting for that money. ”
The march will first knock on the door of the Media Development and Diversity Agency in Parktown, Johannesburg, and then move to the communications department, which houses Icasa and Sentech.
The march ends at Jackson Mthembu, the minister’s office in the presidency.
Icasa said in a statement, radio stations were offered the opportunity to get their homes in order, but they did not succeed. “It is, therefore, our duty to apply the law and to close the stations, as it will be illegal for them to broadcast further,” the statement says.
Pusoyabone claims that the NGF also wanted to discuss the industry’s challenges with Icasa, but that their pleas were ignored. “We sent them a letter in February and March, but it was ignored. Only last month we heard about them, and it was already too late. ”