Arrest criminals not TV licence defaulters – lawyer

Windhoek-A Windhoek lawyer feels the police should focus on arresting criminals rather than involve themselves in enforcing the payment of the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) television licence fee by defaulters.

The police must not be involved because it's a civil case � this is not a criminal matter. The police must go and arrest criminals, said Milton Engelbrecht of Engelbrecht Attorneys in an interview with New Era yesterday.

Engelbrecht explained that the matter should be dealt with by the civil court that would assign a deputy sheriff to collect the money once due process has been followed.

Meanwhile, the NBC's head of legal services and company secretary to the director general's office, Steven Yarukeekuro Ndorokaze, last week said the police's involvement in enforcing the payment of the NBC TV licence fee is not a special arrangement. Ndorokaze explained that the police would merely enforce the law as it does with all laws of the country in dealing with television licence defaulters.

Section 18 of the NBC Act (Act No. 9 of 1991) provides that the national broadcaster may call on the Namibian Police to assist with inspections of premises to check whether there are televisions sets on the premises.

Section 28 of the same Act makes it an offence to be in possession of a television set without a valid television licence and provides that violators may be prosecuted.

Once convicted they could be fined not exceeding N$2,000 or a maximum prison term of six months, explained Ndorokaze.

Further, he said the Office of the Prosecutor General is empowered to prosecute on behalf of the state but before prosecution can take place, cases must be lodged with the police.

In turn, the police shall refer such dockets to the Office of the Prosecutor General.

Our discussion with the Namibian Police Force was to work out the practicalities around the opening of cases in respect of television licence defaulters, the handling of dockets in this regard and other related matters, said Ndorokaze.

In the meantime, the legal teams of the NBC and police are finalising the process to be followed before this comes into effect in the coming weeks.

It shall be a continuous process for as long as the law remains in place and there are defaulters, said Ndorokaze.

He also said that it is the legal obligation to have a valid television licence in respect of each television set.

The Act places emphasis on possession of a television set and not so much what the television set is being used for (whether you watch NBC or not), he said.

There is no direct link between the requirement to have a valid television licence and the quality of NBC programming. But with greater revenue, the quality of what is aired on radio and television can only improve, said Ndorokaze, urging the public to pay their television licence fee.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia