Radio Pretoria’s application to have its plea for renewal of its broadcasting licence heard in the Constitutional Court was refused on Wednesday.
The court ruled that the dispute over the granting of a four-year licence to the community broadcaster is ”not yet ripe for hearing” because the full facts of the issue are not yet on record.
However, the matter raises important issues about freedom of expression and prescribed labour practices and is ”most worthy of adjudication”, the court said.
Clem de Klerk, Radio Pretoria’s station manager, is not put out by the ruling, but said it is a pity that the station now has to start court proceedings all over again.
The station had hoped the Constitutional Court would be able to hear the matter based on a previous, very similar case about a one-year licence, for which all information was readily available, so that it would not have to ”walk down the same road” twice, he said.
Radio Pretoria is a community radio that caters specifically for ”boere-Afrikaners”.
It was refused a licence renewal by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) because of its employment practices — a decision that was upheld by the Pretoria High Court that labelled it a ”blatant and indefensible self-perpetuating oligarchy”.
The station has been broadcasting since 1993, and until 1999 Icasa renewed its temporary licence every year. However, in 2000 its one-year renewal application was turned down, and in 2003 its application for a four-year licence was also turned down.
The station appealed to the High Court, and then to the Supreme Court of Appeal. It has continued to broadcast through several interim orders while in litigation.
”We have the right to continue broadcasting until our case has been heard by the highest court in the land,” De Klerk said.
He said the station has already submitted another appeal for a hearing with the Constitutional Court. — Sapa