NCA waiver ‘refreshing’ – Sam George

Sam George

Member of Parliament for Ningo Prampram, Sam George, has described as “refreshing”, the decision by the National Communications Authority (NCA) and the Ministry of Communications to waive the sanctions meted out to some 131 radio stations for noncompliance of regulations.

He has commended the Ministry of Communications for its actions, which he said is aimed at mitigating the enormity of the sanctions and is “the first good steps aimed at protecting free speech”.

The Minister of Communications, Ursula Owusu, gave a second chance to the radio stations that were sanctioned for noncompliance of regulations.

A statement released by the Ministry on Friday, October 20, said: “Following the presentation of the Minister for Communications on the floor of Parliament on 19th October, 2017, the Ministry of Communications (MOC), in consultation with the National Communications Authority (NCA), has offered the following reprieve for FM Broadcasting Stations which were sanctioned for committing various infractions.

“Community and Institutional FM Broadcasting Stations; The pecuniary penalties which were imposed on the FM Broadcasting Stations in this category have been waived. In addition to this, these stations are to regularise their operations; pay their outstanding indebtedness (Annual Regulatory and Spectrum fees) and submit renewal applications and all outstanding documentation as applicable within thirty (30) days from the date of this release, Friday, 20th October, 2017. Failure to do so will result in the revocation of their authorisations.”

It added: “FM Broadcasting Stations which had their Authorisations Revoked; The stations in this category have the option to petition the Honourable Minister for Communications for a review of the revocation of their Authorisation within 10 days from Friday, 20th October 2017. After receipt of their petitions, they will be reviewed on a case by case basis, following which the Minister will determine the applicable sanctions.

“Commercial FM Broadcasting Stations; Defaulting Commercial FM Broadcasting Stations that were fined by the NCA have also had their fines reduced by 50%. They have 30 days from 20th October, 2017 to pay the 50% reduced penalties or have their authorisations revoked.

“It is the expectation of the Ministry and the Authority that all defaulting FM stations will take advantage of this opportunity and ensure compliance within the shortest possible time.”

Reacting to this development, Mr Sam George, in a statement, said: “It is refreshing to read the release from the Ministry of Communications on the fines by the NCA. I must commend the Ministry for its initial actions aimed at mitigating the enormity of the sanctions. They are the first good steps aimed at protecting free speech.

“However, I still believe that as the Ministry’s statement suggests, there is room for more dialogue and negotiations. One key issue would be the apparent retrospective nature of the fines. It is important as a cardinal rule of natural justice, that penalties are not applied retrospectively. I believe that with the good faith shown by the Ministry, this issue too would be resolved amicably during discussions with the Ministry.

“Let us continue to build a conducive environment for Ghanaian businesses to thrive even as the businesses respect their obligations to the state. It is my hope that the affected radio stations would take advantage of the current dispensation to engage the Ministry further to settle whatever outstanding issues may exist.”