LEPHALALE — It has been more than a year since Lephalale FM went off air.
On 31 March 2017, management of the station received an instruction from the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) to cease broadcasting. Since then efforts to bring the station back on air were unsuccessful.
Early in January 2018, ICASA sent an email to the board of directors of the station stating their reasons for not authorising LFM to start broadcasting again. The authority said it had noted that the station experienced challenges with former station management which was asked to submit the renewal application.
“The station was reminded on more than one occasion to submit its renewal application. The last reminder was on 23 October 2016, the month in which the license expired. Despite these reminders, Lephalale FM failed to submit its license renewal application on time as required by the Electronic Communication Act (ECA) 36 of 2005, as amended and the Class Licensing Processes and Procedures Regulations 2010, as amended by the Amendment Class Processes and Procedures Regulations 2015,” read some of the contents of the email.
ICASA furthermore said there is a time limit within which class license renewal registrations must be made, which is six months prior to the expiry date.
“Authority is not afforded any power in terms of section 19 of the ECA to consider late renewal applications with regard to class license. In terms of section 7 of the ECA, Act 2005, no-one may provide any broadcasting service without a license. Consequently, Lephalale FM must cease to provide any broadcasting service in respect of which its broadcasting service license was granted.”
According to ICASA, Lephalale FM ceased to broadcast after its expiry date based on the above Acts.
The Authority has issued a moratorium in respect of applications for both class community sound broadcasting service licenses and radio frequency spectrum licenses for purposes of providing a community sound broadcasting service. It means that the Authority will only accept applications for community sound broadcasting service licenses once the moratorium is reviewed, lifted and the new regulatory framework for community broadcasting is finalised.
Confusion and frustration regarding the future of LFM escalated during the past few months, as it was not clear when the radio will be back on air.
The matter was finally clarified on Wednesday 21 March during the commemoration of World Consumer Rights Day at Mogol Club by Richard Makatu, ICASA’s Consumer Rights Specialist.
“I was there in May 2016 when the board of LFM was elected and I asked the community if they were happy with the newly elected board and they said they were. The community chose the board and their main responsibility was to keep the license and comply with it.
“The board failed to comply with ICASA regulations and the community did not consult them to find out why that happened.
If you (the community) have a problem with this reality, go to the board and ask them why they have not adhered to the rules of ICASA,” he said.
Makato said the Authority revoked the license after there was no compliance and reapplication was done in February 2017 – four months after the license has expired.