Sky FM is officially off the airwaves, however, the fight for justice has just begun.
This much was expressed by Therold Prudent, one of the station’s announcers, who publicly expressed his disapproval of the station being off the radio frequency 93.1 FM.
The National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (NTRC) issued a cease and desist order to the radio station which took effect on Monday for operating without a license.
This is the second time Sky FM has received a cease and desist order the first being issued in October 2021.
In an interview with reporters near the House of Parliament, Prudent noted that the radio station (which favours the United Workers Party) had been treated unfairly, vowing that Sky would come back stronger than ever. According to him, Sky intends to have a protracted protest against government.
“We are here to say clearly that we have that fundamental right as Saint Lucians to oppose this government forthrightly. If there was an issue, they could have allowed us to correct it, but (the) fact that they did not allow us to do that means that they want to be high handed with SKY FM and with supporters of the United Workers Party (UWP),” Prudent, who was surrounded by fellow UWP supporters said, Tuesday.
He claims that Sky FM isn’t affected by the NTRC’s order, rather, he said, it is its supporters who are on the losing end. Asserting that Sky FM will continue broadcasting via other platforms, Prudent said “we will still be accessible to the listeners who have followed us.”
Although Prudent blames the government for what transpired with Sky FM, Minister with responsibility for Tourism, Investment, Creative Industries, Culture, and Information, Dr. Ernest Hilaire told reporters the outcome was inevitable. According to him, Sky FM is responsible for its own fate as the radio station was repeatedly told that it does not have a license to broadcast.
“It’s a very simple situation. The radio station (was) broadcasting illegally. They have gone live on the air threatening what they will do to the country if they are shut down—that they will run destruction, and we kept saying to them you do not have a license, you cannot broadcast (without) a license. This (has) been going on for months and months. Finally, we’ve had to say to them look we’re going to go to the courts, we’re going to go through the legal process and close you down which has been done,” Hilaire said, adding that if the station believes it was broadcasting in accordance with the law, then it can settle the matter in court.
Opposition Leader Allen Chastanet believes the ‘truth’ will be revealed ultimately. He told reporters Sky FM will be pursuing legal action and said the United Workers Party will continue to support the rule of law and freedom of speech in Saint Lucia.
“It’s a very sad day for the democracy of this country. The reality is the details of what has transpired with Sky will become public knowledge. My understanding (is) that there will be legal action taken as early as today (Tuesday),” Chastanet said.
According to the political leader, during the period 2016-2021, the UWP administration endured daily attacks from media outlets. Chastanet claims that two of these media outlets owe huge sums to the agencies responsible for regulating telecommunications on island.
“One media house owes over $400,000 and the other over $90,000 yet we never attempted to silence them,” Chastanet alleged, further stating that “we live in a democratic country.”
Prime Minister Philip J Pierre echoed Hilaire’s sentiments, however, in an interview outside the House of Parliament indicated that the NTRC had every right to issue a cease and desist order against Sky FM. According to him, if any radio station has a license and is not being allowed to operate, the station has every right to take the government to court.
“I will be the litigant because I believe in the freedom of speech (and) the freedom of expression. Anyone who has a license and is disallowed from operating I will help them in taking the government to court,” Pierre said.
But according to Minister for Local Government Richard Frederick, Sky FM never applied for a frequency allocation to begin with. The station was notably operating on the 93.1 frequency which was allocated to Kairi FM.
“Kairi cannot transfer—its non-transferable,” Frederick told listeners on his popular TV show/radio programme ‘Can I Help You?’ Thursday night.
Stating that Sky FM will not emerge victorious in its legal pursuits, a caller noted that “Before you can talk about a license you must have an allocation,” a point Frederick also agreed with adding that permission must be sought from ECTEL to transfer a frequency.