Freetown, SIERRA LEONE – Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) calls for license fee reduction and unpegging from the US dollar
In a significant move, the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) engaged with the management of the National Telecommunications Authority (NatCA) on Wednesday, October 18, 2023. During this courtesy call, SLAJ appealed for a reduction in license fees for community radio stations. They also requested the decoupling of these fees from the US dollar, considering the challenging economic climate in Sierra Leone, which has a detrimental effect on running and operational costs.
Ahmed Sahid Nasralla, President of SLAJ, emphasized the vital role of community radio stations in disseminating information about government activities to local communities and promoting citizen participation in governance. He stressed the need for government support to sustain these radio stations.
“Sierra Leone is currently facing an economically challenging period in its history, and the media sector is significantly affected. Community radio stations, in particular, struggle to stay on the air daily, facing financial difficulties and often lacking proper governance structures. Given their essential role in providing information to remote communities, we have been engaging with the government to secure support for community radio stations. For NatCA, one starting point could be to reduce their license fees and disconnect them from the US dollar,” said Nasralla.
The SLAJ President also urged NatCA to implement the recommendations of the Media Development Indicators (MDIs) by periodically publishing the National Frequency Allocation Plan. This plan would display the allocation of radio and TV frequencies, their locations, and the remaining available frequencies, ensuring transparency in the allocation process.
He called for increased collaboration between NatCA and its counterpart, the Independent Media Commission (IMC). Furthermore, Nasralla suggested that NatCA hold regular meetings with broadcast media owners and groups to discuss emerging trends, regulatory changes, technology, and innovations.
Amara Brewah, the new Director General of NatCA, expressed gratitude to the SLAJ President and his team for their visit. He assured them that NatCA would examine the issues raised, including the license fees. However, he emphasized the need for NatCA to generate revenue.
Brewah noted that the publication of frequency allocation data was in progress, highlighting the issue of individuals hoarding radio and TV frequencies. To address this problem, Brewah stated that they would explore legal options to prevent such practices.
Regarding the relationship with IMC, Brewah confirmed that NatCA and IMC enjoy a harmonious and professional partnership. He stated that they recently held meetings to discuss various matters and expressed a commitment to continuing this collaboration with periodic meetings.
Brewah recognized the complexity of unpegging the broadcast license fee from the US dollar, considering the depreciating value of the Leone against the dollar. He indicated that they might consider reducing the dollar fee but would need to revisit the law to accommodate these concerns and maintain a balance. AMK/20/10/2023