The Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA) has slapped broadcasting houses with a 700% hike in fees, writes Mzimkhulu Sithetho.

Radio stations were shocked when they received invoices with new licence fees ranging from M21 000 (R21 000, or around US$3 000) a year. Previously, the fees were M2 800 (R2 800, or around US$400) a year.

The rise in fees comes on top of a decision by the government to deny official advertising to critical stations, as well as a bill before Parliament that would vest all powers to issue or revoke broadcasting licences in the relevant minister. There have also been threats to close down Harvest FM, a popular private radio station that broadcasts from Maseru.

The Lesotho chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) recently expressed shock at a letter from the regulator to Harvest FM asking the station to show cause within sixty days why the station should not be closed.

“This does not reflect a democratic state that is expected to observe international instruments that include the African Charter on Broadcasting,” says the acting director of MISA Lesotho, Thabang Matjama.