The Minister of Communications, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful and the Youth Organizer of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), say the National Communications Authority’s (NCA) decision to sanction 131 radio stations is in the right direction.
The move is said to have rendered thousands of people jobless, but the Communications Minister, in particular, see the crackdown by the regulator on the media houses, as part of measures to sanitize the country’s communications sector, deserves commendation.
Speaking to journalists after Parliament resumed sitting yesterday, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful said:”We all need to recognize that the NCA has a mandate to regulate frequencies in this country and without adhering to those regulations, we run the risk of having it descend into jungle status. We spend valuable time in Parliament passing laws and we frequently bemoan our own inability or reluctance to enforce our own laws making them lose significance. That’s the difference between a civilized society and a state of nature.”
“I think that the actions of the National Communications Authority (NCA) to enforce the Electronic Communications Act passed in 2008 by this august House, is a step in the right direction and ought to be commended by all right-thinking members of society.”
The stations, including Accra-based Radio Gold, Atlantis Radio and Radio XYZ, 3-FM, were either fined or had their licenses revoked by the NCA, following the completion of a nationwide FM Spectrum Audit.
Radio XYZ, was fined GHc 4,090,000, Atinka FM GHc 14,800,000, while Radio Gold and Atlantis Radio picked up the heftiest fines with GHc 61,330,000 and GHc 60, 350,000 respectively.
The Media Foundation For West Africa (MFWA) has also expressed concerns with the sanctions, stating that the NCA itself failed in its mandate, as some of the stations, had been in default for over a decade.
“Why would the NCA sit down over the years, and in their own statement they indicated that some of these affected media organizations had actually failed to renew or pay whatever it is for as many as 17 years. So you ask yourself, all these years what the NCA was doing?”
The NPP Youth Organizer, said the decision to sanction 131 radio stations, was in the right direction.
According to him, the NCA, chaired by ace broadcast journalist, Kweku Sekyi-Addo, followed due process by notifying the affected stations according to the law and therefore warned the minority in parliament to desist from ‘fighting’ the NCA over the issue.
“I think the minority NDC is making unnecessary noise and I believe they are suffering from deliberate memory loss and have forgotten that there is a law that exist to check radio stations who go contrary to the laws of the country” he said.
The NCA led by Joe Anorkye; an American returnee sanctioned some FM stations for flouting section 13 of the Electronic Communications Act (2009), Act 775, by revoking the licenses following their expiration. A critical station like Montie FM was affected.
Owners of the radio stations sanctioned for operating with expired licenses, as well as other offenses, would have to cough up about GHc1.18 billion.
The Minority in Parliament, has since lamented that the recent sanctions imposed on 131 FM Authorization Holders, could deprive up to 5, 000 people of their jobs.
The minority in a statement said, it was troubled by the on-going exercise by the NCA, under which selected media houses have been subjected to the very harsh regulatory sanction.
“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,” a statement by the Minority, signed by the Ranking Member on the Communications Committee, A.B.A Fuseini said.
“We are deeply troubled by this development which has 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”, ranking Member, Communications Committee, Alhaji A.B.A. Fusieni stated in a signed.
But speaking on Accra-based Peace FM, the NPP youth leader, questioned why the institutions involved failed to pay their licenses.
He believes this action by the NCA, is clear that some media institutions are inefficient, and that the NCA, wants to stop the operations of these media stations.
Sammy Awuku, therefore pleaded with the minority to desist from playing politics with the issue and rather find ways and means of helping to deal with it.
“NCA has not infringed on any rights. Minority should stop using this issue for political points and rather help in their own way to see how the issue can be resolved” he noted.
Meanwhile, the NPP lawmaker for Ledzokuku in the Greater Accra Region, Dr. Bernard Okoe Boye, is unhappy about the closure of the radio stations.
“When a good action becomes a problem for the majority of people that action no matter its goodness must be looked at again “, he suggested.
Speaking on development by the NCA, on GHOne State of Affairs programme, the lawmaker and medical practitioner, thinks though the move might be good, it is not necessary considering the implementation period.
He wants the matter relooked at by the government and the regulator.
“Sometimes it is not how good your action or intention is if the queries and anxieties and complaints are huge you have to be reasonable and come to the table”, the lawmaker told government.