The Communication Regulatory Authority of Namibia (Cran) has come under fire for not tracing down the radio licences that are not being utilised despite the fact that other people are queuing up for the same licences.
As if Cran’s admittance of unutilised licences and its failure of revoking these licences is not enough already, Crans’ decision of awarding radio frequencies in Windhoek recently despite stating that frequencies in Windhoek are fully assigned has also provoked a reaction.
Chairman of the Namibia Community Radio Network, Mathew Haikali is of the opinion that such practices are unacceptable and urged Cran to combat these practices.
“Once you meet the criteria there is a time frame, they say it’s normally a six month process once you get a license. I am not aware of people who have licences that are not being utilised but if there is, then there is a problem at Cran. It must serve as a challenge then for Cran to get these people,” he said.
Managing Director at Omulunga Radio and Fresh FM, Norman Kotze, said it’s a pity that Namibia is experiencing such a situation.
“Cran can just talk to these people because we can’t have radio licences that are not being utilised if some of us can utilise them. If you have a radio licence please tell me so that I can buy it if you are selling it.”
Cran’s Public Relations Officer, Jairus Kapenda said although there are a few unutilised radio licences Cran cannot state their names or give the number of radio stations issued with licences.
“Decline in donor funding; Organisations are reducing advertising budgets whilst the number of broadcasters are increasing example “the cake is getting smaller” but the demand of advertising support is increasing; Namibia Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) provides broadcasting services country wide in all nine language channels. Hence, advertisers may prefer to advertise on NBC,” he said.
He added that, “Cran supports community broadcasters, but there are no financial or technical support schemes from government or Cran in place to assist the broadcasters. Community broadcasters must develop their own business case for sustainability,” he said.
Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Joel kaapanda should revoke idle licences.
“Cran receives applications they then decide whether to award or not but if they award the licence and the payment is done we don’t recommend the revoking of licences but if the applicant violets the law then Cran can revoke the licence. If there are people that have these licences just for the sake of having them then Cran has the right to take actions,” he said.
Asked as to why Cran is not then revoking these licences, Kaapanda said, “Revoking cannot be done without representation by the other party whose licence is to be revoked. Another thing is that one has to look at the timeframe you can’t just give the person a licence today and expect him or her to have a radio station the next day.”
Former Namibia Communication Commission (NCC) Head of Secretariat, Barthos Hara-Gaeb said ever since NCC was preceded by Cran the radio industry has not be growing.
“That is a compliance issue. Some years ago we were building this industry (radio industry), but one thing that these people that apply for these licences don’t understand is that it’s not just about the money you will get from having a radio station but it’s about investment. Having a radio is not just having a radio station but it’s having infrastructures and that’s where Cran has to come in. You can’t just give licences to anyone,” he said.
He added that, “I don’t know how Cran’s regulations are but back in our days of NCC if someone applies we ask the secretariat to look at the application and the send it to the Commission meeting to assess whether the frequencies are available or whether the person has financial back up. We didn’t just use to award licences like that,” he said.
Broadcasting spectrum fully assigned
Cran has also come under immense pressure recently for awarding licences for frequencies in Windhoek despite having earlier stated that frequency modulation (FM) broadcasting spectrum in Windhoek is fully assigned.
“That’s the question that people have been asking me, they are also asking whether Cran has plan to detect these frequencies. Because you cannot just say there are no more frequencies in Windhoek yet we see radios stations coming up,” said Hara-Gaeb.
He added that, “all this frequencies problem could have been solved if Cran had carried on the digitalisation plan that NCC had. The documents are available and we even conducted workshops and even the Minister of Information and Communication that time attended some of the workshops. We drafted it with the assistance from people from Botswana. But it seems like Cran does not want to continue with these plan.”
Complaints also came in that despite the previous disadvantaged Namibians having applied for radio licences their applications have always been over looked as many licences have been awarded to foreigners.
Kapenda however reiterated that there is no more radio frequencies available in Windhoek.
“Windhoek is fully assigned, Swakopmund/Walvis Bay and Oshakati are nearly fully assigned. Licenced broadcasters move transmitter sites to new positions without approval from Cran, sometimes into residential areas. This is prohibited by the spectrum use licence conditions, Licenced broadcasters change power outputs and frequencies without approval by Cran. This is also prohibited by the spectrum use licence conditions,” he said.
Conducted for comment to shed more light Cran’s Chairperson of the Board, Lazarus Jacobs referred back the questions to Cran.