Swaziland's attempt to free its airwaves took a significant and commendable step forward on 15 September 2008 when government announced the approval of four radio licences to be issued within a month, according to a statement from Misa.
Approved are three community and one commercial radio licences following an invitation for applications issued more than a year ago. The winners of the licences are yet to be announced.
On 15 September, the outgoing Minister for Information and Public Service, Sgayoyo Magongo, together with a Technical Committee government has tasked to process the licence applications, met about 20 applicants who have filed applications for the radio licences. The meeting was to give feedback on the processing of the applications and to fast-track the process so that the licences are issued within the 30-day deadline.
Among the issues discussed in the meeting were the fees to be paid by applicants and radius to be covered by each station granted the licence. Licences will cost E2 500 (approx. US$350) across the board while the spectrum charge will be E500 (approx. US$70) for each community radio station. Commercial radio stations will have to pay a E10 000 (approx. US$1,500) spectrum fee for the first year and three percent of the net operating income for the subsequent years. Each community radio station will initially be granted 20 watts which will cover approximately a 20km radius.
However, the Minister announced that the issuing of the four licences will take a piloted approach, initially for a 12-month period within which a study would be carried out to assess the viability of these radio stations and other factors.
While most applicants appreciated the positive development from the government, they expressed concerns about the allocated watts, saying they would allow for very limited coverage.
The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Swaziland chapter assisted a number of community radio applicants to file their applications. The chapter will continue to influence the process to finally have the Swazi airwaves freed.