Blows in Parliament over radio stations

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Mrs Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, Minister for Communications

A statement by the Minister for Communications on the punitive action taken against 131 local radio stations by the National Communications Authority (NCA) for not renewing their licenses, evoked a lot of emotions, especially from the minority side.

The minority National Democratic Congress (NDC) had wanted to make a counter statement to condemn the action of the NCA.

The Communications Minister, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, said yesterday that there were 400 more radio stations in the country which had not been affected by the NCA’s action and are operating because they had fully complied with the law.

She, therefore, wondered why some Ghanaians, especially the NDC members in parliament, had unjustifiably been accusing the government of supervising the NCA’s move.

The minister said the law, which is the Electronic Communications Act 2008 (Act 775), was passed by parliament that 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 (ITU) and its Radio Regulations as agreed to or adopted by the Republic.

According to Mrs Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, the regulatory role of NCA is clearly spelt out in the Act passed by parliament and that the NCA does not in any way grant licences to radio stations or regulate the media or exercise editorial control of FM stations.

“NCA is the legal custodian of Ghana’s spectrum resources and grants authorization to entities to use the spectrum,” she said, stressing that it is preposterous for anyone to suggest that the implementation of a law parliament has passed is a threat to media plurality.

She said the NCA did not arbitrarily set the fines nor make the decisions, adding that it was parliament that did, and the application affects telecommunications operators as well.

She said that while there had been complaints about the scale of fines authorized by parliament, as far as she was concerned, the fines are commensurate with the infractions committed.

“The fact that previous Boards and Directors-General of the NCA, probably with the blessings of the Ministers of Communications, did not enforce their rules does not mean that a new regime with the belief in the rule of law, should not apply the laws of the land.

The minister disclosed that she had received a lot of petitions with regards to the fines imposed on the erring radio stations and that each petition would be looked at and on its merit, adding that any person or group of persons who are not satisfied with those fines can still petition her office for consideration.

The minority members, including the MP for Ningo-Prampram, Sam George Nettey; MP for Bawku Central, Mahama Ayariga; MP for Sagnarigu, A.B.A. Fuseini and MP for Tamale North, Suhuyini Alhassan Sayibu, claimed that the fines imposed were arbitrary and too hefty and that they needed to be re-considered or reviewed.

The minority members wanted to know the identities of individuals who would be given those frequency allocations if the licences of the 131 radio stations were eventually revoked.

Source: dailyguideafrica.com