More than 130 radio stations in Ghana are facing the wrath of telecommunications industry regulator, the National Communications Authority, for various infractions, a press release issued by the regulator here on Friday said.
The stations had their licenses revoked after a nationwide FM Spectrum Audit conducted this year to determine compliance with their authorization conditions.
In all, 11 radio stations were requested to pay application fees for renewal of authorization and to pay a fine in accordance with the NCA’s gazetted Schedule of Penalties for failure to apply three months before expiry of authorization within 30 days.
“Twenty‐one (21) FM broadcasting stations have had their authorizations revoked completely since their authorizations had expired over several years and were operating illegally. They had also failed to apply for renewal three (3) months before expiry of existing Authorization and as stipulated in their Authorization.”
“The FM broadcasting stations in question also did not respond to a notice the NCA sent to them to regularize their operations earlier this year,” the release explained.
Although some of the stations had responded to an earlier notice requesting them to regularize their operations, they have been fined as per the category of infractions and pursuant to the NCA’s gazetted Schedule of Penalties.
The fines range from 50,000 Ghana cedis or 11,350 U.S. dollars and 61 million Ghana cedis or 13.84 million dollars in accordance with the infraction and the duration the infraction persisted.
Those fined were given up to 30 days to settle their indebtedness or submit the relevant documentation as indicated in the letters sent them by the NCA, which is interpreted as asking them to fold up after the expiry of the 30-day period.
The regulator added that 13 FM broadcasting stations would also have their authorizations revoked completely since their authorizations had expired and were operating illegally.
It explained that these affected stations had also failed to apply for renewal three months before the expiry of existing Authorization as stipulated in their Authorization.
“This section of FM broadcasting stations responded to the notice but had requested for extension of time to regularize their operations, which the NCA found unacceptable and declined.”
Ghana is touted for its high credentials in media freedom and freedom of expression, with a National Media Commission tasked to regulate the media landscape.
However, the issues of bandwidth and spectrum are also regulated separately by the NCA.
The parliamentary minority responded in a statement that the NCA was being high-handed in its sanctions, warning that over 5000 jobs stood to be lost in the process.
“The NCA does not also appear to have considered the deleterious impact this will have on jobs in the sector. We estimate that close to 5,000 people working in the affected stations will be rendered jobless should the current action persist,” the statement, signed by the Ranking Member on the Communications Committee, Alhaji Bashir Alhassan Fuseini said.
The Minority also averred that “troubling development is one that has the potential for grave implications for press freedom and media pluralism.”
“These actions by the NCA threaten to roll back the gains made so far in entrenching a vibrant media culture. While we acknowledge the NCA’s right to regulate the communications sector in a manner that ensures compliance with appropriate regulations, we are alarmed by the sweeping and heavy-handed approach under the current exercise,” the minority warned. Enditem