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SLAJ urges radio stations to pay Spectrum Fees

SLAJ urges radio stations to pay Spectrum Fees

Freetown – The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists is in receipt of a notice from the National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM) to shut down radio stations in default on payment of Spectrum Fees and hereby urges these stations to pay up or blame themselves.

The Association wishes to make it abundantly clear that it will not intervene in this matter or ask NATCOM to stay action, which is effective 1 September 2012. “For over three years, and on several occasions, SLAJ has engaged the telecoms regulatory body and defaulting radio stations on the issue of payment of Spectrum Fee including an address to the NATCOM Board”, says SLAJ President, Umaru Fofana, who adds that “several agreements were reached which were repeatedly breached by some of the radio stations”.

In May 2009, the SLAJ president addressed the Board of NATCOM and argued the need for community radio stations to pay half the amount of US$ 500 to which both the Commission and the radio stations agreed.

The board was also considerate to agree a waiver of arrears owed by these radio stations. “It is inexcusable therefore for any station manager to have failed to be paying their annual fee of $ 250”, Fofana says.

Since then, SLAJ has also held several meetings with both the Commission and radio stations, directly and indirectly through the Independent Radio Network, including at a forum organised in Freetown in April this year by NATCOM which was attended by all station managers or their representatives.

Again, and in the presence of station managers and NATCOM, the SLAJ President pleaded for an extension of the deadline for payment of Spectrum Fee. That deadline elapsed months ago. SLAJ is therefore backing NATCOM in this action to ensure compliance with payment of Spectrum Fee.

Meanwhile the Association also wishes to warn all radio stations, especially community radio stations, to desist from taking inducements from political parties or politicians aimed at compromising their broadcasts ahead of the November general elections.

It has come to the notice of SLAJ that some community radio station managers have failed to provide a proper account of funds raised in the name of their stations and have resorted to collecting monies from politicians to pay their Spectrum Fee. This is unacceptable because it compromises the very essence of the establishment of a community radio.

Failure to give a proper financial account of a community radio station could constitute a corruption offence under the 2008 Anti-Corruption Act because such monies are raised in the name of the people of these communities.

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