Parliament adopts report on broadcasting code

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MATHATISI SEBUSI

MASERU – Parliament has adopted the report by the Portfolio Committee recommending that the Broadcasting Code of 2022 be returned back to the Ministry of Communications for further consultations and review. Parliament’s Committee on the Prime Minister’s Ministries and Departments, Governance, Foreign Relations and Information Cluster has recommended that minister of communication should review Section 5 of the Broadcasting Code, in consultation with relevant stakeholders, and should facilitate the availability of short courses for media practitioners in the country.

Section 5 of the Broadcasting Code, 2022 demands broadcasters to hire only people with journalistic qualifications to manage content and presentations at their radio stations. The Broadcasting Code No 38 of 2022 was published in the Government Gazette on April 4 and became effective on the date of its publication.

Among others, the code stipulates that a broadcaster shall recruit and retain presenters who have certification confirming continuous journalistic training of no less than six months from a registered and recognised institution. The code also stipulates that editorial staff should have certification confirming continuous journalistic training of no less than two years from a registered and recognised college or university.

The code further notes that within 24 months of coming into effect of this code, all registered and licensed broadcasters shall comply with the regulations. The parliamentary decision comes after broadcasters expressed dissatisfaction with the broadcasting code, alleging that the ministry of communications and LCA is burdening radio stations with the broadcasting code of 2022 that is bound to affect their businesses negatively. Rather, they asked that the code be reviewed and each radio station be treated separately.

On the other hand, the ministry of communication and LCA said there was nothing wrong with the broadcasting code. If anything, it took long to be implemented. Founder and former CEO of MoAfrika FM Ratabane Ramainoane had said the broadcasting code of 2022 was unfair, noting that broadcasting is a business and qualifications have never been a requirement for one to start a business.

Ramainoana also noted that the code could not be applicable to all radio stations since there are different categories of radio stations that need different specialties for different programmes. He said, for instance, it made no sense to demand a journalistic qualification from a priest presenting religious related issues on radio. Giving an example of a presenter on the economy, Ramainoana said private and community radio stations like MoAfika need different qualifications for different programs. He said he sees no need for one to get a journalism qualification to present news on the economy while they already have a qualification in economics.

“I see no need to get journalism qualification for a person presenting culture related issues as long as they are qualified on the topic they present. Also a person presenting on economic issues does not need to be a qualified journalist as long as they are qualified as an economist,” he argued before the portfolio committee.

The committee had invited broadcasters to table their grievances after writing to it expressing their dissatisfaction about the broadcasting code of 2022. Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on the Prime Minister’s Ministries and Departments, Governance, Foreign Relations and Information Cluster, Lehloka Hlalele, had given the broadcasters an opportunity to decide what it is that they want to be reviewed and reconsidered in the code. He said after their submission, they will discuss the matter further and make the necessary recommendation concerning the broadcasting code.

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