THE closure of radio stations by the National Communication Authority (NCA) last week took centre stage in discussions on both radio and T.V over the weekend and the Ghanaian Times cannot allow it to pass without comments.
So as it is already known, the NCA last week closed down a number of radio stations, including Accra-based Radio XYZ and Radio Gold, for failing to live up to their obligation as demanded by the law.
According to the NCA, the affected radio stations have defaulted in renewing their licences.
“Radio stations operating without valid authorisation as determined by 2017 FM Broadcasting Audit are being shutdown with immediate effect as enforcement action in line with the decision of the Electronic Communication Tribunal,” the NCA said in a press statement.
It further explained that “Following the FM Spectrum Audit in 2017, some stations were found to be in default and were fined by the authority. However some of the stations in default were not satisfied and proceeded to court to appeal against the decision”.
“This resulted in the review of the decision by the ECT and the NCA was asked to rescind its decision, to allow the radio stations to revert to the same position as fresh applicants. While some stations shut down as a result, others did not”, the statement said.
From the foregoing, it meant clearly that the NCA was doing what the law required it to do and therefore cannot be blamed entirely for the predicaments that have befallen the radio stations.
However, opinions are divided over the timing and the process that was used to close down the defaulting stations.
While some commentators do not see anything wrong with the shutdown and argue forcefully that the NCA is within its right to shut down the radio stations, others are questioning the real motive of the NCA to shut down the radio stations for failure to renew licenses that had expired over a decade.
There are those who also argue that the NCA’s action is an attack on media freedom and that it was seeking to gag the radio stations because they are sympathetic to the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC).
We are not about to speak for or against any of the positions. Our concern is the effect of the NCA’s action on press freedom and job losses.
Indeed, both supporters and those opposed to the closure of the radio stations agree that the affected radio stations were in default and some action needed to be taken against them.
However, the disagreement is in the level of action which we believe should not appear to affect press freedom and jobs.
In as much as the NCA must enforce the laws and ensure that the laws governing the use of the spectrum are respected, it must not give room for certain impression to be created.
The NCA must therefore work with the affected radio stations to fulfil the requirements needed for their re-opening.
To the affected radio stations, we wish to remind them that the spectrum is a national assert and must not be taken for granted. They should endeavour to honour their obligations as stated by the law.
They should take immediate steps to comply with the law and have their right to broadcast restored. Likewise, radio stations that have not lived up to their obligations but have not yet been shut down should immediately comply with the law.