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SentechSignal distributor Sentech said it would reconnect community radio stations, which have not paid fees they owe to the company

South Africa's Minister of Communications, Nomvula Mokonyane met with Sentech, the National Community Radio Forum (NCRF), the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) and the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) to resolve the issue.

Sentech is looking to recover about US$2.7mn in owed fees from the stations. Last week, 15 community radio stations were suspended from broadcasting and 17 others would have been affected.

"We have managed to broker an agreement between the parties that will be aided by our support to the community radio stations through the MDDA. Sentech has agreed to reconnect all suspended stations and will not effect any further suspensions in the short-term whilst we seek to find sustainable solutions to the financial viability of the community media sector," Mokonyane, said.

Community radio stations, which operate on shoestring budgets, have helped broadcast information and bring forth local concerns from vulnerable populations living in isolated areas of developing countries.

"We have also committed to further engage the community radio sector through a process aimed at strengthening governance, financial management, revenue generation and skills development within the sector. The above will create an environment wherein community radio stations are geared to attract investment and advertising expenditure from both the public and private sector", Mokonyane, said.

Mokonyane also said the government will host a Community Radio Sector Summit in May, to bring to light issues faced by the sector.

"The community radio sector is a critical communication platform to ensure we provide our people with access to information in their communities as a means towards the creation of an informed citizenry. It is for this reason that we cannot allow the sector to collapse" concluded Minister Mokonyane.

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