Stakeholders met in Maseru recently to mark ten years since the airwaves were liberalised, writes Mzimkhulu Sithetho.

The communications ministry, managers of independent radio stations and the media fraternity in general met to celebrate the launch of eight radio stations in ten years.

Besides state-owned Radio Lesotho and Lesotho Television, the country now has seven independent radio stations, including church-owned and private, commercial stations.

Communications Minister, Mothetjoa Metsing told a full seminar of radio managers and journalists that diversity in the sector reduced domination by Radio Lesotho.  

He promised the seminar that government hoped to continue opening up broadcasting by transforming state radio into a public broadcaster.

The announcement was greeted with applause, since it seemed to mark a shift in approach. It came hardly a week after the minister had dismissed calls for quick transformation, saying the government was in no hurry to change.

He had said that government had to mobilize infrastructural and human resources before considering transformation of the state broadcaster. 

And the deputy principal secretary, Thabiso Makintane had called the idea of transforming the broadcaster “completely impossible” as the broadcaster had been in its current state in the previous governments.

At the later seminar, he said: “Government has regard for electronic media as an important roleplayer which should ensure that national interests and concerns are addressed.”

He called upon electronic media managers to promote freedom of expression, diversity, independence, self-sufficiency and pluralism.
However, he cautioned that they had to observe conditions spelled out in their licenses and in the Broadcasting Rules of 2004.
 
Of the nine radio stations, only Radio Lesotho has countrywide coverage. It transmits on four frequencies, two on FM, one on medium wave and one on short wave.

Two radio stations, Catholic Radio and MoAfrica FM are heard 30 kilometers from the capital Maseru. MoAfrica FM is heard in three districts with a spillover to other districts.

Other radio stations’ broadcasting range is largely restricted to Maseru.