September 2, 2020
Ms. Edwina Crump Zackpah
Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA)
Dear Chairman Crump Zackpah:
The Leadership of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), the representative body of journalists and media institutions in Liberia requests a meeting with the Full Board of Commissioners of the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) and your technical broadcast leads.
We are referring you to our position of 26th December 2019 in which the PUL urged the Liberia Telecommunications Authority and all broadcast stakeholders to organize a validation session on the draft LTA FM Radio Policy which this entity suddenly announced had gone into forced.
At the time, the Press Union of Liberia indicated that your public announcement was intentionally toned against Liberian broadcasters presenting them as irresponsible when the sectorial regulator (LTA) had created a messy airwave in Montserrado by uncontrollably granting of licenses.
The Press Union of Liberia and other stakeholders like the Association of Liberian Community Radios (ALICOR), Nimba Community Radio Association (NICORA) assisted by Internews/USAIDS have helped reviewed and established the gravity and ramification of the wide assignment of frequencies done by the LTA with hope that a solution was in sight.
Inputs from all the forums have been collated by the Internews- Liberia but unfortunately all the stakeholders’ views were disregarded and an unrealistic licensing regime which does not represent the performance of the economy presented.
Madam Chair and members of the LTA Board of Commissioners, validation of the draft LTA FM Frequencies Policy will allow expert review of individual frequencies as contained in the expiration announcement of December 2019 which can be rationally aligned with the stipulation of regulatory fees consistent with the financial soundness of media entities in this case, radio stations.
The Press Union of Liberia is by this invitation drawing you away from the initial LTA’s threat to terminate FM frequencies already in use without first validating the draft FM regulation policy along with stakeholders of sector.
We stressed that if the Liberia Telecommunications Authority is to continue with hostility against the broadcast sector, the policy will fail and radio stations will still be on air without government realizing a penny.
This public policy must be thoughtful of the economy of the media in Liberia and actions must be geared toward keeping the broadcast industry alive than contributing to the demise of a major tool for national development and substance of our democracy.
Moreover, the Press Union of Liberia is seeking explanation to the recent opening of new radio stations in Monrovia owned by Stewarts of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) and Businessman; to name a few, Bana FM, Atlantic Broadcast Corporation (ABC), Strong FM, and Spoon FM/TV while Punch FM application is being stalled.
In regard to all of the above, the Press Union of Liberia is cautioning the Liberia Telecommunications Authority to reverse its decision.
Again, the Press Union of Liberia is available for a meeting, which will set up a large stakeholders’ validation conference with the aim of approving the draft LTA FM Regulation to suit the prevailing economic turbulence the entire media is enduring.
- Requirement for license application can be tailored in line with the interests of Liberians and transparent (i.e. the LTA must tell public exactly why it grants an independent radio license to one broadcast aspirant over another with an accompanying reason rooted in public interest)
- A reprieve period must be scheduled to give radio stations time to continue serving the public good; that fines are not imposed retroactively knowing that LTA herself is negligent of the current broadcast frequencies confusion in Liberia (i.e. not one stakeholder is to blame for delinquency in license payment for the immediate past, etc)
- Application process for broadcast license must be made publically transparent
- Availability of license be made on a plan of available spectrum across the nation as well as thought for profitability in accordance with the status of the local economies (i.e. 10 licenses available in Montserrado, 8 in Bong, 3 in Grand Bassa, etc). The plan would include a frequency assignment (e.g. Monrovia FM 88.7; FM 101.5; FM97.9, etc) to ensure businesses will not broadcast on the same frequency as their competitors.
We look forward to hearing from you as part of efforts to engender guarded reform in the operating environment of the media in Liberia.
Charles B. Coffey, Jr.
Press Union of Liberia