The minority National Democratic Congress (NDC) has called on the National Communications Authority to suspend its decision to revoke licenses of some 131 radio stations over nonpayment of license fees among other sanctions.
The largest opposition party estimates about 5000 people are likely to lose their jobs if the regulatory body carries out its objective to the letter.
“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.
“This will only serve to worsen the precarious unemployment situation and add to the hardships Ghanaians are going through,” the NDC said in a statement.
The move by the NCA follows the completion of a nationwide FM Spectrum Audit conducted this year to determine compliance of Authorisation Holders with their Authorisation conditions and to determine which FM stations were in operations or otherwise.
Also, the FM Spectrum audit forms part of a wider and on-going audit of all services regulated by the Authority including TV and ISP services.
The NDC has appealed to the NCA to suspend “the on-going exercise and use dialogue and more flexible means to ensure compliance with relevant regulations.”
“This, we believe, will avert a situation where monetary value is placed on the right to free expression with its attendant difficulties,” it added.
Below is the full statement:
STATEMENT BY MINORITY ON HIGH-HANDED REGULATORY SANCTIONS AGAINST SELECTED MEDIA HOUSES BY THE NATIONAL COMMUNICATIONS AUTHORITY
The Minority in Parliament has learnt with grave concern, of an on-going exercise by the National Communications Authority (NCA) under which selected media houses have been subjected to very steep regulatory sanctions.
It is our understanding that, about 131 radio stations have either had their authorization revoked, which means they have been taken off air, or have been slapped with very draconian fines running into tens of millions of Ghana cedis in some instances. Other kinds of sanctions have been applied in a variety of cases.
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.
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 situation where alleged breaches of regulations dating back several years are suddenly cited as basis for the near-summary closure of radio stations and humongous fines, poses a mortal danger to the expansion of the frontiers of free expression.
Radio has become a foremost means of expression by large sections of our citizenry since the liberalization of the airwaves at the beginning of the current democratic dispensation. Entities operating within that space therefore ought to be acknowledged for their invaluable contributions to the growth of our democracy.
Regulatory enforcement ought to be undertaken in a reasonable manner that factors in the fragilities inherent in the operations of many radio stations.
The current revocation and sanctions regime appears to be monetizing the right to free expression and could be construed as an effort to exact retribution particularly against stations that have traditionally been ideologically opposed to the current NPP administration.
We are at a loss as to how millions of Ghana cedis can be imposed as fines on radio stations, failing which their authorization will be revoked only to have them sold to other entities for GHS 30,000.
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.
This will only serve to worsen the precarious unemployment situation and add to the hardships Ghanaians are going through.
In light of the foregoing, we urge the NCA to as a matter of urgency suspend the on-going exercise and use dialogue and more flexible means to ensure compliance with relevant regulations.
This, we believe, will avert a situation where monetary value is placed on the right to free expression with its attendant difficulties.
Alhaji A.B.A. Fuseini (MP)
Ranking Member, Communications Committee.