Sentech, the state-owned signal distributor, may be brought before the Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Communications regarding confusion over signal distribution costs.
The Portfolio Committee on Communications has been conducting unannounced oversight visits to community television and radio stations in the Eastern Cape province in order to assess whether they are living up to their mandate or not.
During these visits the committee found that one-year-old community radio station Mdantsane FM Radio was severely under-resourced despite having 100,000 listeners.
Xhobani Thole, Mdantsane FM’s programme manager told SABC News that “we are faced with the challenge of fundraising and of course the operational resources. We would like to see the business people coming on board, making sure that Mdanstane FM is developing into a great height and also the competency amongst the staff is another big challenge we are facing [sic].”
It was also found that some community radio stations do not comply with license conditions as authorised by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) due to a lack of local content programming.
As a result of lacking funds, some community radio stations’ coverage does not reach the areas they are mandated to cover. This has raised concerns that Sentech is not working hard enough to certify the stations reach their target areas.
Sikhumbuzo Kholwane, Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Communications told SABC news that “the issue of subsidy by the Department of Communication[s] and [M]DDA (Media Diversity and Development Agency) to community radio stations, we need to get clarity. We are told that Sentech is threatening to close them down and when you check with DoC, they are part of community radio to be subsidised.”
Furthermore, ICASA has been urged by the committee to investigate further the issues raised and supply recommendations.