Friday, March 30, 2007

Maldives private broadcasters granted five national frequencies

Private broadcasters in the Maldives will face strong competition to secure FM frequencies after authorities have announced only five national and eight Male’ based signals will be available. Chief Executive of the Telecommunications Authority (TAM), Mohamed Amir, announced this morning that he expects those figures will be the limit.
Amir explained numbers will be restricted because of “limited resources” and “existing broadcasts” on the FM bandwidth. He said reserve frequencies did exist but TAM had decided not to make these available yet. The Authority wants a bedding-in period to resolve any technical problems. But TAM is also not convinced many of the applicants are serious.
With only five frequencies available for ten applicant broadcasters, competition will be cutthroat at the birth of private radio broadcasting. Amir says competition will identify broadcasters “who are capable” of investing in infrastructure to broadcast. The Telecommunication Regulatory Board will determine which broadcasters receive frequencies. Amir denied there would be any political interference in this decision. He said the board was “semi-independent”, although all members are appointed by the President, without any parliamentary approval.
In addition to competition for frequencies, broadcasters limited to Malé will attract less revenue from advertising. But Amir said that TAM is not concerned with “the business case for broadcasting, but with limited resources”. Amir agreed that the need to apply separately for a broadcast licence from the Ministry of Information and a frequency from TAM was complicated for broadcasters.
He said “there has been some cooperation” between the authorities and the Information Ministry has consulted TAM “when necessary”. But broadcasters are concerned that there was no cooperation until the final stages of the process. Amir said “personally I would have preferred more” cooperation to create a single application process. But he said that agreement to keep the regulation of broadcasting and infrastructure separate had been taken at ministerial level, “and there must have been reasons for that.”
(Source: Minivan News/R Netherlands Media Network Weblog)