Regulator issues orders to all TV stations

The Office of the Regulator has issued an order to all Television Stations in Samoa, warning them of “legal action by way of prosecution” for non-compliance with the Digital TV switch.

The order is contained in a letter to all General Managers of licensed T.V. broadcasters in Samoa, and is signed by the Acting Regulator, Fa’alelei Sua.

Dated 6 November 2019, the letter notifies the companies of the Order and its conditions and requirements. The letter is accompanied by the “Order of the Regulator No.2019/T84” signed by the Regulator, Lefaoali'i Unutoa Auelua – Fonoti.

According to the letter, the Order of the Regulator No. 2019/T84 has also been filed with the Supreme Court so that it will be made a Supreme Court order.

“Non-compliance to the Order will consequentially mean non-compliance to the Supreme Court Order and therefore you will be subjected to Contempt of Court,” the letter reads.

The order instructs the TV stations that “all licensed Broadcasting Service Providers (T.V.) are required to connect to the Digital Platform no later than Friday 15th November 2019.”

 “The Regulator hereby approves ST$23,473 per month as tariff to be levied on T.V. Broadcasters commencing 1st February 2020 for 6 months ending on 31st July 2020,” the Order states.

It also noted that the analogue system shall be switched off on 31st January 2020.

 “Failure to comply with this Order shall result in the O.O.T.R. taking appropriate legal action by way of prosecution for non-compliance to the law and/or the revocation of broadcasters licence in accordance with section 27 and 66 of the Act.”

The Order will expire only if the Regulator revokes it or when a new Order is made with respect to the tariff.  The Samoa Observer attempted to seek clarification from the Office of the Regulator with regards to the latest development.

A message left for the Acting Regulator, Venus Iosefa, for a comment was not returned at press time.

Questions were also sent to the Minister of Communications and Information Technology (M.C.I.T.), Afamasaga Rico Tupai, who said he had enquired with O.O.T.R. and “the Order was raised last Friday as part of their ongoing process based on their Act.”

The Minister added he had met with the O.O.T.R. on Wednesday.

 “They were to come back to me with a solution so I can update the Honourable Prime Minister,” he said.

Attempts are being made by this newspaper to get comments from the affected television stations.

A background of the Digital Platform Broadcasting Tariff on the Order states that in March 2019, the Samoa Digital Communications Limited submitted its proposed tariff of $40,000 per month for each T.V. station.

On 16 August 2019, the Regulator calculated the determined tariff to be $35,759 per month.

 “However, consequential to discussions between S.D.C.L. and government (intervening on behalf of TV Broadcaster); S.D.C.L. submitted a new tariff and arrangement to the Regulator,” the order said.

In addition it stated that S.D.C.L. has “accepted at its own cost to subsidize the official tariff as determined by the Regulator for a grace period of six months upon achieving 95% coverage”.

The accepted tariff by S.D.C.L. per month is $23,473 per month from each T.V. station, starting from February 2020.

The Order of the Regulator comes two days after Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, had written to the Regulator about the handling of complaints from T.V. stations with regards to the tariff.

In a letter dated 4 November 2019, Tuilaepa rebuked Regulator Lefaoali’i, telling her to “listen and obey”.

The letter written in Samoan detailed the Prime Minister’s disapproval of the Regulator’s Office press release on Broadcasting Tariffs for Digital T.V.

 “In the meeting we had (which the Regulator did not attend), I had instructed you all to talk again,” a translation of the letter reads.

 “What I meant in my instructions is that you are to report back to me before any decision is made.

 “But for you to issue a press statement where you attempt to interpret my thoughts shows that you think you know everything. It is good to be wise but it is not good when you think you know everything.”

Tuilaepa added: “Listen and obey”.

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