MASERU — The Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA) has suspended the broadcasting licence for local radio station Joy FM for three months starting Tuesday for alleged breach of its licence conditions.
The LCA says Joy FM has failed to resolve its frequency interference on People’s Choice (PC) FM and OFM of South Africa since it was notified in May last year.
The suspension was with effect from midnight Tuesday.
The LCA public relations manager Tšiu Tšiu told the Lesotho Times that Joy FM was licensed to broadcast on 109.6 MHz but it has been broadcasting on 95.707 MHz and 95.440 MHz.
Because of this, Tšiu said, Joy FM was now interfering with PC FM’s 95.6 MHz and OFM’s 95.3 MHz frequencies.
OFM is a South African radio station.
He said the LCA had found that the problem could have been caused by Joy FM’s ageing transmission equipment.
“Joy FM’s transmission equipment is a bit old. Sometimes this kind of problem is caused by old equipment,” Tšiu said.
“The board of directors of LCA has issued an enforcement order suspending the sound broadcasting licence of Joy FM for a period of three months for its failure to resolve frequency interference between itself and People’s Choice FM and OFM.
“Joy FM has been directed to switch off its radio broadcast transmission equipment at 12:01am September 14, 2010 and commence with its broadcasting transmission on December 13, 2010 at 12:00 midnight,” the LCA said in a press statement.
Transmission, the LCA said, will only commence if Joy FM finds a “technical solution” to the problem.
It said the station must demonstrate and satisfy the authority that the proposed solution will stop the frequency interference.
“The licensee should demonstrate to the authority that it has found technical solutions on the interference matter to ensure that the harmful interference caused to PC FM and OFM by Joy FM do not recur.
“They should satisfy the authority that the proposed solutions would resolve the interference matter permanently.
“The failure by the licensee to find a permanent solution to harmful interference may result in the authority considering further action against the licensee,” the LCA said.
The order was issued last Friday.
A staff member at Joy FM who said she had authority to speak on behalf of her bosses who are in South Africa refused to comment on the suspension.
“I am always the one who handles matters here on behalf of my bosses but I cannot comment on this issue. It is too heavy for me,” said the staff member who refused to give her name.
The managing director of PC FM, Motlatsi Majara, said Joy FM could have avoided the suspension if they had co-operated with them or the LCA when the problem was first reported.
“We tried to have meetings to communicate the problem with Joy FM management but they were never there. We only met presenters. We ended up reporting the matter to the LCA so that they could intervene,” Majara said.
“We received massive complaints from our listeners and advertisers eventually withdrew because we were not clear. We lost business because we lost listenership.”
Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Lesotho’s information officer Thabang Matjama said it was unfortunate that Joy FM had failed to respond to the LCA’s earlier warning.
“Joy FM management did not oblige when the LCA persistently warned them about the frequency interference. However closing a media of communication impedes on people’s freedom of expression,” Matjama said.
“We hope the issues between the LCA and Joy FM will be solved for the sake of the people,” he said.
Misa advocates media freedom and diversity in the region.
This is the second time the LCA has suspended a radio station.
Popular radio station Harvest FM was also slapped with a three-month suspension in July 2008.
The LCA accused Harvest FM of broadcasting “inaccurate, malicious and defamatory information” on their morning show Rise and Shine.
The radio station was back on air in October 2008.