Fifty-seven out of the 144 Frequency Modulation (FM) stations that were cited for various infractions in an audit exercise by the National Communications Authority (NCA) have been shut down, the Minister of Communications, Mrs Ursula Owusu Ekuful, has said.
“In accordance with the decisions of the Electronic Communication Tribunal (ECT), 30 out of the 57 stations have submitted fresh applications for FM authorisations, out of which 15 have been processed.
“The applications for the remaining15 FM stations are still being processed and the outcomes will be communicated to them after they have gone through all the requisite processes, which include technical review, management review and board approval,” she added.
The minister further said 27 out of the stations that were closed down had not submitted fresh applications for new FM authorisations.
She gave the updates when she took her turn at the ‘meet-the-press’ series in Accra on Monday, October 14.
In 2017, the NCA embarked on an audit of all FM stations in the country, leading to the imposition of sanctions on stations found to have been operating with expired authorisations.
Some entities which were dissatisfied with the authority’s decision filed individual appeals at the ECT in November 2017, while other defaulters filed as a group, under the auspices of the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA).
On June 18, 2018, the ECT delivered a unanimous decision in the case of GIBA vrs NCA Appeal No.: (ECT/APP/02/2017).
The tribunal quashed the penalties imposed on the FM stations, but stated that a person with an expired FM radio authorisation must lose the authorisation and re-apply, if he or she so wished.
In effect, the NCA was directed to close down all such stations, as they had no right to operate.
The stations were, however, given the opportunity to submit fresh applications for consideration on a case-by-case basis.
Following the closure of those stations, many individuals and organisations criticised the NCA for what was largely seen as a targeted closure of radio stations affiliated to opposition political parties.
However, Mrs Ekuful described those allegations as unfortunate and not worth believing.
“It is factually incorrect and a blatant untruth to say, as some, including former President John Mahama and the Media Foundation for West Africa, who really ought to have known better, sought to portray, that only opposition radio stations have been targeted for closure, using the law.
“No such intention actuated this exercise, and I am not sure we can claim that all the 144 stations in breach of the Electronic Communications Act were opposition radio stations. I know of XYZ and Radio Gold, and the latter had operated without renewing its authorisation for 16 years. The stations are certainly not untouchable or above the law, as some would have us believe,” she said.
The minister also said claims that the Public Services Commission (PSC) had dissolved the ECT and was not willing to reconstitute the body to continue with its adjudicatory duties were not true.
She said although the Chairman of the ECT, Professor Justice Samuel Date-Bah, had resigned from the tribunal, a new panel had been constituted to continue with its work.
“The new panel, chaired by Dr Kissi Agyabeng, resumed sitting on October 8, this year. It is, therefore, untrue to say the PSC has refused to reconstitute the ECT, as the former President also intimated,” the minister said.
The Director-General of the NCA, Mr Joe Anokye, also said there was no ill-motive behind the exercise the authority embarked on to clamp down on erring radio stations.