By Abdul Rahman Bedor
The National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM), the country’s telecommunications regulatory body, on Friday, April 3th April, this year held an interactive session with FM Radio Station broadcasters nationwide at the Shargri La, along the Lumley Beach in Freetown.
The forum discussed views and concerns with regards the interference in radio frequencies nationwide.
In his statement, Information and Communications Minister, Alhaji Ibrahim Benedict Kargbo enlightened that the NATCOM Act created the Commission to supervise the spectrum board, while the Independent Media Commission monitors and ensures a level playing field for all radio stations in the country.
According to the Minister, the Ministry is responsible for policy making, stressing that “radio stations must operate within specified frequencies otherwise interference will take place for which I want to warn Managers and Proprietors of radio stations to improve on their equipment.”
Alhaji Kargbo stated that if radio stations violate the Act, the Commission was at liberty to withdraw their licenses recalling, “recently, I received a complaint from the Commission that several radio stations are not honouring their financial obligations to the Commission which would affect its operations. Furthermore, NATCOM is contemplating on publishing the names of defaulters for which the Ministry has given the Commission a month’s notice for all defaulters to honour their dues.”
In his comments, NATCOM Chairman, Mtr. Siray Alpha Timbo, stated that the Commission would continue to look into the frequency interference issue and admonished Managers and Proprietors to adhere to the rules and regulations of the Commission for its smooth running.
In his remarks, NATCOM Director-General, Mr. Mohamed Bangura, who welcomed stakeholders, revealed that due to financial constraints, the Commission has given concession to community radio stations to pay two hundred fifty Dollars ($250) instead of five hundred Dollars ($500).
In his contribution, the Director of Finance, NATCOM, Mr. Abu Bakarr Jalloh, disclosed that in 2009, about seventy radio stations that registered owe the Commission three six hundred Dollars ($3,650) and that in 2010, the seventy radio stations that registered owe them seven thousand five hundred and ninety six Dollars ($7,596), while in 2011, 50% of the eighty one radio stations that registered owe the Commission sixteen thousand five hundred and ninety eight Dollars ($16,598) and that this year the ninety seven stations that registered with only fourteen honouring their financial obligation while they still have to collect an outstanding debt of $ twenty four thousand two hundred Dollars $(24,200).
He cautioned Managers and Proprietors to pay their dues after the expiration of the 21st May, 2012 grace period otherwise their stations would be shut down.
In his statement, the President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), Mr. Umaru Fofanah, admonished Managers of radio stations to be careful in their reportage, especially on the forthcoming elections by strictly adhering to the Independent Media Commission (IMC) and NATCOM Code of Practice.
He called on the Commission to speedily resolve the issues of the Africa Young Voices radio station in Freetown and MAWOPNET radio station in Kambia over interference in their frequencies.
He also appealed to the Commission not to allow mobile phone company operators to open radio stations apart from internet facilities.
Similar statements were also made by the IMC Chairperson, Mr. Rod Mac-Johnson and the Member of the Parliamentary Oversight Committee on Information and Communications, Hon. Yapo Kondeh Conteh among others.
The highpoint of the meeting was the signing of the communiqué between NATCOM and Station Managers and Proprietors while Mr. Ibrahim Kabia, NATCOM Consumer Welfare Commissioner, rendered the vote of thanks.