State-owned signal distribution company Sentech has switched off 15 community radio stations because they owe too much money.
The City Press has reported that Sentech started its first phase of the switch-offs last week, and more stations will be switched off unless they receive payments owed.
According to Hope FM, dozens of other stations have received threatening letters stating they face a “suspension of their services” if they do not pay up immediately.
Sentech said the future switch-off plan also includes community TV stations which are in arrears.
Community radio stations which have been switched off include Forte FM and Karabo FM.
Karabo FM Station Manager Duncan Sinthumule said they requested to make a payment arrangement with Sentech, but the company’s expectations for a payment plan were unrealistic.
Sentech wanted the station to pay R116,458 “immediately”, with monthly payments of R52,153 for 18 months until the debt was settled.
“We cannot even afford to pay R15,000 per month, how will we be able to stick to their payment plan?” said Sinthumule.
As non-profit entities, community radio stations are expected to raise their own funds through advertising, sponsorship, and fundraising.
Radio stations have called for a meeting with Minister of Communications Nomvula Mokonyane to discuss the matter.