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Cabinet continues monitoring of Namibian Broadcasting Corporation programs

(MISA/IFEX) - Cabinet has reaffirmed its stand on the continued monitoring and evaluation of Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) radio phone-in programs. Through government pressure, the NBC had earlier this year made drastic and controversial changes to its programs to prevent what the authorities called "abuse of the right to freedom of speech". The original programs were completely removed from the air and replaced with new ones which are strictly monitored by the government and have very limited air time.

The NBC warned that the government would monitor the programs and that they would be completely removed from the air if the measures were ineffective. The original programs featured various educational and developmental discussions by the public and their ban from the air in March 2009 sparked more criticism from the public.

The government had over the past few years put pressure on the national broadcaster, claiming that NBC airwaves were being abused by callers on its radio stations, particularly NBC National Radio and the NBC Oshiwambo Service. In March 2009, the NBC management reduced the frequency of phone-in programs on national radio to 1 hour only, once a day. The station also applied strict measures, such as screening of incoming calls and increasing the delaying time with 8 seconds between the space of receiving the call and broadcasting it on air.

An article published on 3 August in "The Namibian" newspaper reported that on 31 July, the Cabinet noted that during a three-week monitoring period, no problems were experienced with the phone-in programs. The Cabinet reiterated that once the proposed infrastructure has been put in place and the necessary training has been conducted, "the NBC will be better equipped to handle phone-in programs". It noted that NBC management had agreed to maintain the current status quo and that careful monitoring and content evaluation of phone-in programs will continue.

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