133 FM stations granted authorisation

The Governing Board of the National Communications Authority (NCA) has approved the grant of a total of 133 FM radio broadcasting authorisations to entities across the country.

They include new applications from entities whose FM radio stations were closed down after the 2017 FM Audit as well as existing stations which applied for renewal of their expired FM radio broadcasting authorisations.

Although the statement issued by NCA in Accra yesterday to announce the decision taken by the board at a meeting on Monday did not mention names, sources indicate the pro-opposition radio station, Radio Gold and Radio XYZ, are included.

“This approval by the board is subject to the applicants attending a sensitisation workshop on the terms and conditions of FM radio broadcasting authorisations.The workshop shall clarify the legal, regulatory, and technical requirements for the establishment,” the statement.

It said provisional authorisations would be issued to the successful applicants at the end of the workshop and frequencies assigned to the applicants only upon the fulfillment of the conditions of the provisional authorisation.

It reminded the public that per Section 2(4) of the Electronic Communications Act, 2008, Act 775, a person shall not operate a broadcasting system or provide a broadcasting service without a frequency authorisation by the Authority.

“Offenders are liable on summary conviction to a fine of not more than three thousand penalty units or to a term of imprisonment of not more than five years or to both, as per Section 73 of Act 775 of 2008”, it said.

It is recalled that some 56radio stations, including Radio Gold and XYZ,were shut down by the NCA in May 2019 in line with Regulations 65 (1) of the Electronic Communications Regulations, 2011, L. I. 1991, which states that “a person shall not use a radio frequency without authorisation from the Authority.”

In the case of Radio Gold, it was indicted for operating with a license that expired in the year 2000 with reference to a 2018 ruling by the Electronic Communications Tribunal on the status of FM stations with expired authorisation.

The ruling, among other things, said companies whose authorisations had expired reverted to the same position as fresh applicants and would have to go through the required procedure for new FM Broadcasting Authorisation.

Back in September 2017, the NCA in a similar attempt to sanitise the broadcasting sector shut down 34 radio and television stations for various infractions, imposing fines ranging from GHc50, 000 to GHC61, 000,000.

Minister for Communications and Digitalisation, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful told the Appointments Committee of Parliament during her vetting on February 15, this year that no radio station was singled out for closure.

“It couldn’t have been selective or discriminatory. Unfortunately, in enforcing the law you have no way of knowing where the chips will fall and so you work to ensure that you do it with a human face and I believe that was what the NCA was trying to do when it invoked the fines instead of closing down the stations outright.”

BY TIMES REPORTER

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