The Electronic Communications Tribunal has directed the National Communications Authority (NCA), to halt the execution of sanctions it imposed on some 131 radio stations in the country for various offences.
The Tribunal ordered that, pending the final determination of the case that had been brought before it by the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA), the NCA must not apply the penalties imposed on the defaulting stations
GIBA had filed an application at the Tribunal on November 3, 2017, seeking redress for the affected stations.
The Association had earlier described the sanctions imposed on the stations as ‘harsh’, adding that the heavy sanctions could “affect the morale of others in doing legitimate business knowing the unpredictable terrain of business in Ghana”
The stations, including Accra-based Radio Gold, Atlantis Radio and Radio XYZ, 3-FM, were either fined or had their licenses revoked by the National Communications Authority (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.
Accra-based Okay FM and Kumasi-based Hello FM, both under the Despite group, were shut down briefly as a result of the failure to pay their fines.
However, in an act of leniency, the Ministry of Communications and the National Communications Authority (NCA), slashed the fines for the sanctioned commercial FM Broadcasting stations by 50 percent.
The stations were also given additional 30 days to pay the slashed fines, which has since elapsed.
A number of persons, including National Democratic Congress (NDC) Member of Parliament for Ningo Prampram, Sam George, had accused the National Communications Authority (NCA), of contravening certain constitutional provisions with the sanctions imposed on the stations.
According to the legislator, the NCA had reviewed the default sanctions for radio stations which fall foul of the regulations, without seeking Parliamentary approval, which he says is required per the Constitution.
He added that, despite being mandated by an Act of Parliament to impose fines and sanctions of any implicated media organizations, the Constitution requires that any amendments to the sanctions would need the approval of Parliament before implementation.
The Minister of Communications, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, had earlier defended the NCA’s sanctions on the floor of Parliament, stating that the regulator’s actions were backed by law.
“Clause 2(1) of the Electronic Communications Act, 2008 (Act 775) further mandates the NCA to regulate the radio spectrum designated or allocated for use by broadcasting organisations and providers of broadcasting services in accordance with the standards and requirements of the International Telecommunications Union and its Radio Regulations as agreed to or adopted by the Republic,” she said.
“These provisions give the NCA the clear mandate to manage spectrum and issue, suspend or revoke frequency authorizations, and that is simply what they seek to do.”