Thursday, February 22, 2024

Competition Authority could investigate state owned commercial radio station

The Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) has suggested the Competition Authority as alternative independent organisation to investigate whether there is unfair competition in allowing RB2 to operate as a commercial wing.
BOCRA is of the view that even if there is unfair competition they are not allowed to regulate the state broadcaster RB2 to operate as a commercial wing competing with other private radio stations which are regulated under BOCRA Act.
BOCRA, Chief Executive Officer Tshoganyetso Kepaletswe says they unable to state whether allowing RB2 to flight adverts for commercial purpose was not unfair competition to other private radio stations.
Kepaletswe indicated when appearing before Information and Communication Technology parliamentary committee that they are unable to intervene if there is unfair competition since they are not regulating RB2.
He said that they have not taken any action against RB2 even though there could be unfair competition since BOCRA act only allows them to regulate three private radio stations.
Kepaletswe was responding to Member of Parliament for Gaborone Central, Pheyo Butale who wanted to know if it was not unfair competition to allow RB2 to operate as a commercial radio. 
He said that the issue of unfair competition can be handled by competition authority as opposed to BOCRA.
He indicated that there was no how they could intervene since the BOCRA laws only deals with regulating the private broadcaster. 
Kepaletswe also indicated that they have not raised the issue with Competition Authority even though they have an agreement with the competition authority on handling issues of unfair competition.
Kepaletswe was of the view that BOCRA can only intervene when the law makers in parliament amend such laws to allow them to regulate the state broadcaster commercial wing.
Kepaletswe was responding to some members who were worried that allowing them to operate without being regulated could be unfair to other radio stations.
However, Kepaletswe could not provide the names and amount of money owed by radio stations for licence fees indicating that such information was not in their possession. Kepaletswe stated when members of ICT parliamentary committee wanted to know whether there were private radio stations that were defaulting when it comes to paying radio licences to operate.
Kepaletswe promised to provide the committee with such information on a later date. 
He indicated that they have not penalised any radio stations for defaulting to pay licence fees. He said that that they are always engaging radio stations who are usually cooperative as stakeholders.
However the committee members have advised BOCRA to continue encouraging the radio stations to pay their licence since some could use that excuse to close some radio stations under false pretext that they were not paying licences when such broadcasting media are critical on government and certain individuals.
Kepaletswe indicated that they have since awarded 20 online radio licence. He indicated that they have realised that there are challenges since some of the online radio stations never came to exist.



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