Radio is an important part of life in South Africa, and particularly in rural areas where it might be the only form of provided entertainment.

However, radio is not the only medium that consumes signal in the broadcasting, or wireless communication space – television, satellite communications, internet, email, microwave, cell-phones – they all do, too.

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa Act 2000 recognises that technological and other developments in the fields of broadcasting and electronic communications are, and have been for some time, causing a rapid convergence of these fields. We have all heard of broadband, and even the names of some popular radio stations come from the radio wave frequency they utilise to beam out their broadcast signal.

There are only so many radio wave frequencies that can be utilised, with the result that allocating ‘band width’ is a keenly contested process. The authority whose job it is, is known as ICASA. Its function is to regulate broadcasting, and electronic communications, and always with a view to fairness and the public interest.

A. ICASA – powers and obligations

  1. ICASA can, by notice, direct the holder of a licence to produce any documents or information relating to any obligation imposed on the licensee by the Act. It is an offence to fail to comply with such a notice.1

  2. It is an offence to make a false statement of any sort to ICASA.2

  3. It is an offence for any member or employee of ICASA to disclose any information which he acquired as a result of his performance of any function in terms of the Act; except if this is required by law.3

  4. No person may use any name or trading style which signifies or implies some connection or association between it and ICASA, and it is a crime to do so.4
  5. ICASA itself can issue orders, and it is a criminal offence to fail to comply therewith; or to disregard any prohibition imposed by ICASA.

  6. It is an offence to hinder or obstruct any authorised person in the performance of his duties under the Act.5

B. Inquiries

  1. ICASA can conduct inquiries in regard to a wide range of affairs contemplated by the Act – regulations, guidelines, compliance with licences, etc. For purposes of an inquiry such as this, it can require any person to provide such particulars and information as may be necessary. It is an offence for a person not to comply with such a request.6

  2. It can also require any person to appear at the inquiry, to make a statement, and to submit documents or objects in his possession to the inquiry. Any person who fails to comply with a notice to such an effect commits a criminal offence.7

  3. If such a person is summoned to appear, he commits a crime if he fails to answer a question put to him at the inquiry.8

  4. It is an offence to disrupt the proceedings of any inquiry, or hearing; or obstruct ICASA or any of its members in their functions at any inquiry or hearing.9

C. The Broadcasting Complaints Commission

  1. Most of us listening to the radio will have heard of the Broadcasting Complaints Commission. It is obliged to investigate, make a finding on, and make any recommendation on matters referred to it by ICASA, and on complaints received. Once the Commission has made a decision, it can issue various orders to the licensee concerned. It is an offence not to comply with any such decision or order of the Commission.10

  2. In the process of this investigation, inspectors appointed by ICASA will conduct inquiries. It is an offence:

    • to fail to comply with any demand of an inspector;11
    • to hinder or obstruct an inspector in the exercise of his powers or carrying out of his functions;12
    • falsely to pretend to be an inspector.13

D. Licences

  1. Any person who renders a service for which a licence, and registration, is required in terms of the Broadcasting Act 1999, the Telecommunications Act 1996, or the Electronic Communications Act 2005 commits a criminal offence if he fails to do so.14

  2. Any person who furnishes false or misleading information, or fails to disclose information in any application for a licence (or for its amendment, transfer or renewal) commits a criminal offence.15

  3. Any person who transfers a licence without the prior written permission of ICASA commits a crime.16

  4. If you are requested to produce any licence issued under the Act, it is an offence to fail to do so.17

  5. As a licensee under the Act you must keep all records as required by the Act and it is an offence not to do so.18

  6. Any person who fails to comply with any order made by the Authority in terms of the Act (or the underlying Acts) is guilty of an offence.19

  7. Any person who acts in disregard of any prohibition imposed by order of the Authority in terms of the Act (or the underlying statutes) is guilty of an offence.20

  1. Section 17H(1)(a) read with section 4(3)(g). 

  2. Section 17H(1)(c). 

  3. Section 17H(1)(d) read with section 14C. 

  4. Section 17H(1)(e) read with section 16A. 

  5. Section 17H(3)(f). 

  6. Section 17H(1)(a) read with section 4C(2)(a). 

  7. Section 17H(1)(a) read with section 4C(2)(b); and section 17H(3)(g). 

  8. Section 17H(1)(b) read with section 4C(2)(c). 

  9. Section 17H(3)(h). 

  10. Section 17H(1)(f). 

  11. Section 17H(1)(g)(i) read with section 17F. 

  12. Section 17H(1)(g)(ii). 

  13. Section 17H(1)(g)(iii). 

  14. Section 17H(3)(b). 

  15. Section 17H(3)(a). 

  16. Section 17H(3)(b). 

  17. Section 17H(3)(f). 

  18. Section 17H(3)(c). 

  19. Section 17H(3)(d). 

  20. Section 17H(3)(e).