Private broadcasting in the Maldives moved a step closer as the Telecommunications Authority (TAM) announced the winners of broadcast frequencies today. Frequencies were awarded for five national radio stations, a national television channel and several local radio stations limited to single atolls. The winning companies must now sign agreements with the Information Ministry before the first broadcasts take place.
But the launch of government-licenced private broadcasting may signal the death of Minivan Radio, the opposition station which has pioneered independent broadcasting in the Maldives since 2004, after its parent company failed to win a frequency. When Minivan Radio started broadcasting for one hour, twice a week from Salisbury in the UK in 2004, it was the first time Maldivians had received radio news from a non-government source.
At its peak it was broadcasting for an hour every evening, and was a valued source of information to many Maldivians. But a decision was taken to stop broadcasting on shortwave earlier this year, in anticipation of winning an FM frequency, and the failure to do so is a serious blow.
Ahmed Naseer, the station’s founder, told Minivan News, “It is not the end of Minivan Radio. Not getting a licence from this government, which is illegitimate in my opinion, is not an obstacle.”
But current editor Fathimath Shaheeda said “it is too early to say what the plan is. Honestly, I can’t see other stations buying our content. We will wait and see. In some ways it is a good thing as we will not have to sign an agreement with the Information Ministry. The time will come for to sign agreements with the government, but it is not yet,” she added.