Telecommunications research and training body, the Link Centre at Wits University, has called on the department of communications to scrap the proposed Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) Amendment Bill.
The Link Centre says the proposed changes to the act will have “profound public interest implications and potentially a far-reaching impact on policy, governance and regulation across the entire communications technology sector”.
Charley Lewis, author of a submission by the centre to the department of communications, joins others in saying the bill would undermine Icasa’s independence and turn it into a body controlled by government.
Lewis is concerned the department would take away Icasa’s financial self-sufficiency, its decision-making powers and its ability to implement the required industry regulations.
He says the department’s proposal to turn Icasa’s CEO into a chief operating officer would have far-reaching consequences. Without a CEO, it would have to use communications minister Siphiwe Nyanda as a way of approaching parliament.
“It would be far preferable to give Icasa its own source of funding, and to require it to account transparently to the public through an annual report tabled directly before parliament,” says Lewis in the Link submission.
Lewis is also concerned the communications department has built in a clause that would force the regulator to implement any policy directive from Nyanda. This clause would allow the department to override any decision made by Icasa.
“It suggests a worrying intention on the part of the department to turn the independent regulator into a simple transmission belt for the will of the minister and the department,” he says in Link’s submission.
Earlier this month, a local broadcast monitoring organisation, the SOS Campaign, indicated it had similar concerns.
SOS requested Nyanda extend the deadline for comments on the proposed amendments to the end of August. The department has not issued an extension.
Chairman of the parliamentary portfolio committee on communications Ismail Vadi says the bill will be discussed in parliament before the end of the year. — Staff reporter, TechCentral