On 23rd October 2019, the South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) has noted the statement that was released by the National Community Radio Forum (NCRF) regarding the closure of several community radio stations. We also note the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa’s (ICASA) statement that it has no intention of shutting down any “validly operating community broadcasting service licensees” – and that its mandate is to ensure compliance by all licensees with all applicable laws, regulations as well as license terms and conditions. We note that ICASA has identified 29 community radio stations that allegedly are not in compliance.
Sanef believes that compliance is a critical issue and we are happy that ICASA is taking this matter seriously. However, we note that ICASA has not insisted on compliance for a long period. We, therefore, believe that it is important that our Regulator assists and enables stations to comply. Also, we believe that it is important that the requirements are reasonable. We believe that overall, the approach needs to be supportive rather than punitive.
Further, we think it is important that ICASA is transparent about which stations have been affected. We know that some stations were issued licenses, yet they never went on air. We understand that those licenses should be removed. However, we have also been informed that other stations that have been targeted are functional.
Sanef believes that it is important that ICASA, the NCRF and all representative community media organisations, should hold discussions to chart a way forward. SANEF would be happy to be part of those meetings.
Broader crises in the community media sector
Sanef has observed several challenges in the community media sector. With regards to community radio, SANEF notes the serious challenges faced by the sector including high and often unaffordable SENTECH fees for signal distribution. Also, we note significant problems in the community print sector. For instance, the statistics gathered by the Association of Independent Publishers (AIP) that, in less than 10 months, close to 50 independent community newspapers have closed their doors.
Sanef calls on the Minister in the Presidency, Mr Jackson Mthembu, to prioritise the revival of the community media sector. We note, the under-resourcing of the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA), a key support institution in the sector, and the need for government to prioritise the strengthening of this institution.
Also, we note the government’s promise to ensure that a greater share of advertising revenue is dedicated to community media.
We call on the government to move ahead on its resolution to ensure that 30% of government advertising is set aside for the sector.
As Sanef, we believe that the community media sector plays a critical role in society. It generally services marginalized and under-served communities and it plays a critical role in ensuring the free flow of a diversity of news, information and education information across South Africa.
For more information please contact:
Mahlatse Mahlase – SANEF Chairperson 083 399-2852
Dunisani Ntsanwisi – SANEF Community Committee (073) 981- 8649
Judy Sandison – SANEF Media Freedom Committee 082 571-3334
Kate Skinner – SANEF Executive Director 082 926 6404