REGIONS:

Further delays to issuing of radio licences, short-listed radio stations told to reapply

(MISA/IFEX) - Applicants short-listed for the four radio licences approved by the government in 2008 may have to wait longer for the licences. This is because the process may have to start afresh, according to the regulator, the Swaziland Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC).

SPTC Managing Director Nathi Dlamini has written to the applicants and the Technical Committee tasked with issuing the licences, saying there has been a breach of procedure during the processing of the applications in November 2008. Dlamini has ordered that the process should start afresh. He has not specified the breach.

Dlamini stated in his letter, "It is most regrettable to advise that the Regulator has reason to believe that there may have been an inadvertent breach in your deliberations which may have effectively rendered the outcome of your talks invalid.

"Whether or not this observation has legitimate basis is not consequential at this stage. But it is nonetheless a disturbing development significant enough to persuade the Regulator to kindly ask the committee to start the process afresh, this time in keeping with the standards of the process, if only in an effort to engender public trust in the process.

"As you will no doubt agree, the process must not only be fair, but it must be seen to have been fair."

He then urged the applicants to file fresh applications for the licences.

Three community radio stations and one commercial station had had their applications for licences approved in November 2008. They were promised the licences within three weeks after having satisfied certain requirements, including demonstration of financial capability.

In recent days, it became apparent that the ex-minister for information, Sgayoyo Magongo, who initiated and pushed the process and appointed the Technical Committee in the process, was in fact behind the commercial radio station whose application was also approved. He is one of the directors of the new private radio station known as 1FM. As minister, Magongo had in fact an interest in the process. Magongo himself is an ex-radio personality, having worked for the state broadcaster, the Swaziland Broadcasting and Information Services (SBIS), for many years before joining politics. Having lost in the last parliamentary elections, Magongo is currently self-employed and recently said he was looking forward to running his new radio station.

The applicants have expressed frustration at the new development. They are yet to decide whether or not to reapply.

MISA's Swaziland chapter played a key role, advocating for the issuance of the licences. MISA-Swaziland had begun assisting the new stations on management and setting structures for the stations. The chapter will continue to monitor and influence the process until the licences are issued.

Updates alert about the four radio licences: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/97035

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