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Does SKY FM Have Legal Authorization to Broadcast Over Saint Lucia Airwaves?

Social media this week was abuzz with reports that Sky FM, a radio station which by its programming appears to be the de facto voice of the opposition United Workers Party, could find itself in trouble with the National Telecommunication Regulatory Commission  (NTRC) over its use of certain radio frequencies.

Fanning the flames of the above speculation is a document circulating on social media headlined ‘Public Notice: Termination of the use of Spectrum Kairi FM, Saint Lucia’.

The document claimed that Telecommunications Minister Stephenson King took into consideration a written recommendation from the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL) dated 15 September, 2021 and went ahead and terminated with immediate effect, the use of radio frequencies 107.9MHz, 93.1MHz and 369.0MHz granted to Nature Island Communications Corp. Ltd better known as Kairi FM.

“Please be advised that any attempt by Kairi FM Saint Lucia to either operate or provide telecommunication services by all or any licences or utilise the above stated radio frequency spectrum after this date of this notice will infringe Section 28 (4) of the Telecommunication Act Cap 8.11 (as amended) of the revised Laws of Saint Lucia. Such infringement will upon conviction, attract a fine not exceeding one million Eastern Caribbean Dollars or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding ten years, stated the letter purported to be signed by Minister King.

SKY FM is presently broadcasting on 93.1 FM, a radio frequency spectrum that was used by Kairi FM. How then did SKY FM end up using the terminated radio frequency? Was a broadcast license issued to SKY FM to operate on that radio frequency?

The VOICE, yesterday, spoke to a representative of NTRC, the body which issues broadcast licenses in Saint Lucia seeking clarification as to the status of SKY FM regarding its use of the 93.1 FM radio frequency which was terminated just last month, according to the document purportedly signed by Minister King.

The NTRC representative explained that she/he cannot say much when asked whether the NTRC gave the go ahead for SKY FM to broadcast on the frequency/frequencies it is broadcasting on.

“I can‘t say much on that aspect, because unless something is finalize it cannot be a public document,” the NTRC spokesperson stated.

Speaking generally and not specifically to the SKY FM brouhaha on social media, the NTRC spokesperson noted that a radio station can be in operation if “certain arrangements can be made (and) if (certain) processes have been met.”

The NTRC spokesperson added that the processes allowing a radio station to operate may not be the same for everyone, after all there may be certain factors one applicant may face which another may not face.

“(However), when you get to a certain point in a process there are certain things we allowed, if a few points have not been met, we (NTRC) have certain powers to take action, but with this process, (meaning the SKY FM situation) certain things have been met and done so therefore we are trying our best to have everything smooth out as soon as possible,” the NTRC spokesperson said.

When asked whether SKY FM was operating with permission from the NTRC the Commission’s spokesperson said, “I won’t say outright they have our permission, what I am saying, certain action to the process have been met.”

The NTRC spokesperson made it clear that because of what the Commission does it cannot simply divulge information just like that.

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