Spectrum may be released during lockdown - communications minister

Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams
Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams

Minister of Communications Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams told reporters on Wednesday that her department would introduce measures to protect small businesses in the information communications technology sector amid the coronavirus update.

This would also be done with a view to combating the spread of fake news, she said. 

The measures will include a moratorium on fees for community broadcasters, funds to support small, micro and medium enterprises in the ICT sector, and the temporary provision of spectrum for the lockdown period.

Ndabeni-Abrahams was speaking at an inter-ministerial briefing aimed at unpacking government’s interventions in light of the coronavirus outbreak in South Africa, as well as the Friday national lockdown that President Cyril Ramaphosa declared on Monday evening.

Reliable access

Ndabeni-Abrahams discussed several communication-related issues her department would be tackling.

Among other things, the coronavirus outbreak has brought to bear the propensity of false reports or "fake news" to spread in an environment of panic, she said.

Ndabeni-Abrahams said a host of mechanisms would be introduced to ensure that communication lines remained reliable during lockdown. South Africans would need access to accurate and reliable information on the coronavirus during the 21-day lockdown period, which begins at midnight on Thursday, she explained. 

She said the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) would consider releasing temporary spectrum relief to those that must provide communications services during the lockdown period.

"As they provide that relief, it must be done according to the law and we must keep track of the infrastructure that will be rolled out so that by the time we get out of this dilemma the spectrum will be rolled back or the regulator will determine what happens with the temporary spectrum," said Ndabeni-Abrahams.

She told journalists that following engagements with signal distributor Sentech, that vulnerable community broadcasters would be exempt from paying fees to the regulators for the next three months to protect them from the impact of the lockdown.

"We have decided through Sentech that in order to minimise the impact to community media, we will extend grace to say that we will not charge them for signal distribution. So as much as they would have lost money from the events they booked for, they will be exempt from payment for 90 days," she said.

Ndabeni-Abrahams said a sum of R100 million would be provided for small, micro and medium enterprises in the ICT sector that will facilitate digital support to education, health and local government services for South Africans.

She said she was encourage by the commitments government received from media houses to ensure the dissemination of accurate information during the lockdown to combat "fake news" which circulates on social media platforms.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Company Snapshot
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

Government tenders

Find public sector tender opportunities in South Africa here.

Government tenders
This portal provides access to information on all tenders made by all public sector organisations in all spheres of government.
Browse tenders