Local radio stations
With a population of 2.193.800 inhabitants and 84% living in rural areas, Lesotho ranks 144 out of 172 countries listed in the Human Development Index and is one of the world’s Least Developed Countries. The country’s HDI of 0.427 is below average in Sub-Saharan Africa and ranks 108 out of 146 countries in the 2011 Gender Inequality Index. Thirty-five percentage of the population suffers multiple deprivations and development challenges include high unemployment rate, high prevalence of HIV& AIDS, poverty and food insecurity.
ICTs in the country
Lesotho has an ICT Policy with the vision to “create a knowledge-based society fully integrated in the global economy by 2020.” Since the policy essentially addresses technology issues, there is a concern on the strategies and policies that would be necessary to ensure that the principles of freedom to access and impart information and ideas as well as freedom of thought and expression will be respected.
Telecom Lesotho has approximately 63 000 subscribers; 2.9% people have a fixed phone line and 13% people have mobile phone. There were 76.800 Internet users as of June 2010 (4% of the population) and 19.380 Facebook users as of June 2011 (1% penetration rate). Regarding Internet service providers, there is 1 private license held by the National University of Lesotho, 7 commercial license holders (all 7 in Maseru). The telecommunications sector was liberalized in 2000 through the Lesotho Telecommunications Authority Act 2000.
With regards to broadcasters, there are 13 licensed radio stations (12 private, 1 public) and 2 television stations (1 private and 1 public).
Local radios in the country
There are no local radios in Lesotho.
Since independence in 1966, there had been only one national radio station until 1999 when the government of Lesotho issued licenses for other privately-owned radio stations which are mostly based in Maseru. Currently Lesotho has two state-owned radio stations, which broadcast country wide. In addition to this, there are eight privately owned radio stations; three belong to church organizations, one is run by the National University of Lesotho while four are commercial broadcasters –all based in Maseru and thus not local radios. State television is only accessible via satellite television (which must be paid for) and contains a variety of locally produced programmes.
Importance of support to local radios
The main challenge with the broadcast media in the country is the fact that most of the media, except for the state broadcaster, broadcast in and around the capital town Maseru only. It is against this realization that a local radio was established in the Mafeteng District and it would be relevant to support it. The radio aims at involving the Mafeteng community in socio-economic development so that they play active roles in their own and the district’s improvement. Mafeteng Radio obtained its license in October 2011. Therefore, capacitating its staff and management is an opportunity to shape both its future and the future of local radios in Lesotho right from the start.