Guinea-Bissau: Radio stations narrowly escape closure

Two radio stations based in Bissau, capital of Guinea Bissau, have narrowly escaped closure after hastening to comply with a government order to pay license fees or stop broadcasting.

In separate notices to Radio Jovem and Radio Sol Mansi, dated April 5, 2023, the Ministry of Communications referenced Article 3 of Law No 4/2013 to back an order to suspend all broadcasts with “immediate effect” over failure to pay licence fees for the year 2022.

“The Inspectorate-General of the Ministry of Communications, under Article 3 of Law 4/2013, hereby notifies the management of Radio Jovem, the suspension of the authorisation or provisional licence as well as the suspension, with immediate effect, of all broadcast activities,” Faustino Mamasaliu Djaló, Inspector-General of the Ministry of Communications, declared in the notice which the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) has seen.

Alison Cabral, Manager of Radio Jovem, told the MFWA that his outfit managed to comply with the order despite its difficult financial position, in order to avoid shutting down and inconveniencing its listeners and commercial partners.

Radio Sol Manci also complied with a similar order in a hurry to avoid closure.

The broadcast media outlets in Guinea-Bissau have been struggling with the payment of license fees due to hard financial challenges that they face, with 79 of them shut down in 2022 by the government over accumulated debts. While the stations were grappling with the levies, the government in October 2022 announced steeper increases in license fees to compound the problem.

Under the new tariff regime, an operator is required to pay 500,000,000 CFA Francs (about $800,000) to acquire a licence for commercial television with national coverage. This figure represents at least a 6000% increase on the previous fee which was 7,000,000 CFA Francs (about $10,000).

The newly announced tariffs also require payment of 10,000,000 CFA Francs ($16,000) to acquire a licence to operate a radio station with national coverage. Renewal for this category also shot up by 900%.

The MFWA welcomes the decision and efforts of the radio stations to pay their arrears and calls on all media outlets to do their best to comply with the laws regulating the media sector. However, it is imperative that the government of Guinea-Bissau exercise restraint in view of the difficult economic conditions under which the media operate in the country.

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