Regulator shuts radio station, for passenger safety

The Office of the Regulator shut down Samoa’s newest radio station – even before it was officially launched - after their broadcast transmission allegedly interfered with radio communication between the control tower at the Faleolo International Airport and an aircraft.

Regulator Lefaoali’i Unutoa Auelua-Fonoti told the Sunday Samoan her Office had to act quickly after they were alerted by the Samoa Airport Authority (S.A.A.).

She said her Office’s technical officers investigated and found the source of the interference to have been the broadcast transmission of Go FM.

“Due to urgency and obvious safety concerns involved and the lives of passengers at stake, our technicians immediately responded and investigated the origin of the interference,” she said.

“I can confirm that the Office of the Regulator did indeed shut down the operations of the Go FM 94.3 radio station on Thursday, 11 April 2019 at around 5:00 pm.

“Earlier in the day (Thursday) at around 11:00am my Office was contacted by the Samoa Airport Authority with an urgent report of radio communication channel interference between the Samoa Airport Authority, tower and aircraft.

“Due to urgency and obvious safety concerns involved and the lives of passengers at stake, our technicians immediately responded and investigated the origin of the interference.

“The cause of the interference was due to Go FM’s radio frequency transmission – which was being used illegally and without authorization – as well as operating without a license.”

Go FM Samoa was scheduled to be officially launched on Friday by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi. But the launch did not happen.

“Apologies our expected launch today has been postponed,” an email from Atanoa Herbert Crichton, of the Station said on Friday.

“Issues with the Regulator.”

Atanoa did not elaborate.

Repeated efforts by the Sunday Samoan to get comments from him have been unsuccessful.

But the Regulator said the Go FM owner was contacted by her Office.

She claimed that neither the radio station's owners nor their technicians responded to her office's plea to work together to resolve the issue.

“Our technicians immediately contacted and spoke with the owner of Go FM and informed him of the urgency of the situation. Our technicians requested that Go FM technicians meet them at the transmission site as soon as possible to resolve the interference.

“However, despite the urgent request to Go FM, our technicians waited for over five hours without further response by Go FM’s owner or its technicians,” she added.

Consequently, Lefaoali’i said she was forced to use her powers to shutdown the radio station's transmitter to avoid any further risk to aircraft to ensure aviation safety.

“It is within the powers of the Regulator under the Telecommunications Act 2005 to shutdown transmitters that are causing interference and endangering lives and or operating illegally and without authorisation.

“As the Regulator, priority is given to the safety and protection of lives over the operation of a radio station – especially when no concern was shown by the owner of Go FM to the urgency of the situation," she said.

The Office of the Regulator had the option of turning off the transmitter immediately, but Lefaoali’i said they decided to wait for the radio station's owners to send over their technicians to resolve the issue. However, that did not happen which lead to the station's shutdown.

“As indicated above, we could have turned off the transmitter immediately but instead we provided Go FM with the opportunity to send its technicians to the transmission site so our technicians can work together to resolve the interference.”

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