MASERU – Youth radio station Ultimate FM yesterday went off air after sending almost its entire workforce packing over educational qualifications.yesterday seeking legal advice.
The state-run broadcaster “indefinitely” suspended services after nine of its 12 presenters were dismissed.
Radio Lesotho was instead broadcasting on Ultimate FM’s usual signal platform.
The presenters, who were all part-timers with no employment contracts, did not meet entry-level requirements set by the Ministry of Public Service for government employees.
The ministry told the presenters at Ultimate FM in January that all those without degree qualifications would cease working for the radio station by March 31, according to sources.
Only three presenters have survived the chop – either because they have degrees or had running contracts signed when they were employed by Radio Lesotho, Ultimate FM’s sister company.
They are Tello Leballo, known as Dallas T, Pearl Ocansey (Miss P) and Lesaoana Lesupi (LL Cool B).
Ultimate FM, established in 2006, and Radio Lesotho as well as Lesotho Television fall under the Ministry of Communications, Science and Technology.
Communications Minister Mothetjoa Metsing (pictured) yesterday confirmed the problems at Ultimate FM, but said he was not aware of the purge.
He said the problems stemmed from the fact that the majority of the workforce at the station were either part-timers or volunteers.
Metsing said the Ministry of Public Service had problems paying the part-time presenters and hence decided to offer contracts only to those who met the minimum entry requirements for civil servants.
This decision would affect almost all the presenters at Ultimate FM, including some who started with the station when it first went on air.
“There was a problem with the (Ministry of) Public Service for the Ultimate FM workers to be paid,” Metsing told the Lesotho Times yesterday.
“Some people are volunteers, just like some are at Radio Lesotho and at Lesotho Television.
“There is an entry level at work, but in this field you find people with degrees but might not be able to do their work, while some people are naturally talented.”
Metsing said he had wanted talented and experienced presenters to remain with the broadcaster.
“I said we should use talented people, but still at a workplace there are entry levels,” he said.
“As for Ultimate FM presenters being fired for the fact that they don’t have degrees, I will have to check with my people.”
Efforts to contact the minister again before going to print last night were fruitless.
Ultimate FM manager Lerato Tsosane refused to comment on the developments at the station, saying she had no authority to speak to the media.
She referred all questions to Tšeliso ΄Mokela, principal secretary in the Ministry of Communications.
΄Mokela was at his office but his secretary said he could not speak to the Lesotho Times because he was on leave.
The affected presenters were status, even though we did not have contracts,” one of the dismissed presenters said on condition of anonymity.
They said they had been sent home without severance packages or a “token of appreciation”.
“We have approached a lawyer to seek clarification on our employment
“Remember some are experienced presenters who have been with the radio station since it started three years ago and they can’t be badly treated like that.”
Another presenter said although they had been told that those with no degrees would cease working for Ultimate FM on March 31, they had hoped the station’s management would reconsider the move.
“Yes, we were told in January that on the last day of March we will leave the station but I guess somehow, somewhere we thought the station would reconsider but now we had to face reality of the matter as Tuesday was our last day at work,” he said, also on condition that he is not named.
“Ultimate FM was a stepping stone for me. I believe I am very talented. The fact that I don’t hold a degree doesn’t mean I don’t have a future,” he added.
The National University of Lesotho does not offer any broadcasting degree, leaving the mass the Institute of Extramural Studies’ communications diploma as the highest media qualification in the country.
The newly established Limkokwing University however offers a degree in broadcasting.
The Lesotho branch of the Media Institute of Southern Africa, a media advocacy group, yesterday said it was not aware of the developments at Ultimate FM.
Besides state stations Ultimate FM and Radio Lesotho, the country’s other radio stations are the privately owned People’s Choice FM, Thaha Khube FM, Mo-Afrika and Joy FM.
The other ones are religious broadcasters Harvest FM, Jesu Ke Karabo, Catholic and Kereke ea Evangeli Lesotho.
However, only Ultimate FM and Radio Lesotho have a near-nationwide coverage.