The founder of a local radio station, Sebonomoea Ramainoane said the Broadcasting Code that was passed the before National Assembly this year is unfair and inconsiderate.
He said this while addressing the National Assemblyâ€™s Portfolio Committee on the Prime Ministerâ€™s Ministries and Department, Governance, Foreign Relations and Information Cluster chaired by Lehloka Hlalele earlier this week, the complaints of radio stationsâ€™ in relation to the endorsed Broadcasting Code that was passed the before National Assembly on April, 14.
He lamented how the law is unfair to the broadcasters as it dictates that all presenters without qualifications should take a minimum of six monthsâ€™ journalism courses.
Section 5 of the Broadcasting Code states that a broadcaster shall, when applying for a license, submit organisational structure of the radio station.
â€œProfiles of staff members with their academic qualifications and levels of experience in broadcasting which shall be at a level prescribed in regulation 5 (2) and capacity building programme.
â€œPresenters who have certification confirming journalistic training of no less than 6 months continuous training from a registered and recognised institution and editorial who have certification confirming journalistic training of no less than two years of continuous training from a registered and recognised college or university,â€ the code reads.
Ramainoane argued that to report on economy related matters one needs an economist as similar to those reporting tradition stories and that one does not go to school to learn economy and goes back to do journalism.
â€œThat law is cruel and was not thought through; radio Maria is a religious radio so does ACL and KEL. The way they broadcast will never be the same with MOAFRIKA. Should those priests go to school and learn about broadcasting?â€ he asked.
â€œSo the person who was drafting the law should not interfere with other peopleâ€™s businesses,â€ he continued.
â€œI don’t remember LCA giving the private radios stations their adverts to broadcast, if they do that they do it with discrimination.
â€œLCA doesn’t care if a radio from South Africa or Television can come and do as they please in the country. Businesses making money in Lesotho advertise in South Africa not in Lesotho and LCA doesn’t care about that, but yet expect that with this law we should hire media professionals which it finds already in the field. Instead of helping these media houses financially it connives with the minister,â€ he said.
He appealed to parliament to look into the law because it was never given enough thought, stating that LCA did not meet with stakeholders before reaching the decision.
He further warned the parliamentarians that they should be aware that should they allow the law to pass as it is, they are also affected by the law since they are operating in parliament without qualifications.
â€œYou will also have to answer where you attained Political Science and Legal Degree because you are also law makers. So there should not be any discrimination; you make laws but you donâ€™t have law qualifications,â€ he said.
The radio stations that drafted the petition include inter alia, MoAfrica FM, People’s Choice FM, Harvest FM, Jesu Ke Karabo, Bokamoso, TÅ¡enolo FM and PMR, to mention but a few.
Ramainoane said the law should be imposed on Radio Lesotho alone since it survives on government coffers and also deep its hands in the private sector bag in terms of advertisements coming from government and private sector â€œâ€¦ and we are competing with Radio Lesotho while we don’t have financial muscle.â€
He further stated that there is no school of journalism in Lesotho and so he wonders to which school they should go.
â€œThe meetings that the ministry held with stakeholders are numerous, those that I attended the matter of qualifications in a manner that it has been written in that law was never raised. If it was ever raised I could have disputed it vehemently,â€ he said.
LCA Regulator Affairs Maama Maama said the radio stations were consulted since 2012 and made aware of the imminent changes in the industry due to biasness and unethical manner that radio stations and presenters conducted their programmes.
â€œThey were made aware of what the code would entail. MISA and the public were also consulted.
â€œAt that time there was a mischief that had to be cured because radio was used to cause chaos by people without qualifications. During the consultations it is not everyone who agreed on the matter of capacity.
â€œThe radios make long term plans when they venture into agreement with the authority they indicate that they will train their employees so this is not a new thing,â€ he said.
While the Legal officer at the Ministry of Communications Science and Technology Rorisang Molefe stated that the same sentiments were echoed in the reforms after a consultation to relevant stakeholders publicly was made.
â€œThis matter was raised in the reforms and was made by the broadcasts that they are accused of lack of ethics because of people without qualifications and that their colleagues should be trained.
â€œWe are simply saying if one is working on a church radio, they should take a course in order to broadcast more accurately,â€ she said.
â€œThe law is supposed to be proactive so that one knows how they are expected to broadcast. This matter was discussed in the reforms where people sought to reform the media to regain its dignity not a playground,â€ she said.