Radio Gold, Others Get Amnesty

October 13, 2021 By 0 Comments

The National Communications Authority (NCA) has given the green light to Radio Gold, an Accra-based Frequency Modulation (FM) station, strongly affiliated with the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC).

Radio Gold is one of the 133 radio stations whose licenses have been approved by the Governing Board of the NCA to operate in the country.

The 133 approvals consist of new applications and radio stations that lost their licenses in 2017 as a result of an FM audit, which affected Radio Gold and Radio XYZ.

Though the Board has given the approval, a statement issued by the NCA, yesterday, announcing the decision, said that the frequencies would be given to the radio stations upon the fulfilment of some conditions.

“The Governing Board of the National Communications Authority (NCA), at a Board meeting held on 11th October 2021, approved the grant of a total of One Hundred and Thirty-Three (133) FM radio broadcasting authorisations, which 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,” the NCA said.

The applicants are expected to attend a sensitisation workshop on the terms and conditions of FM radio broadcasting authorisations.

The release further explained that, “The workshop shall clarify the legal, regulatory, and technical requirements for the establishment.”

Background

Several radio stations were shut down by the NCA in May 2019, after an audit.

At that time, the regulator, NCA, explained that the revocation of licenses was carried out in line with Regulations 65 (1) of the Electronic Communications Regulations, 2011, L.I. 1991.

The regulation states: “A person shall not use a radio frequency without authorisation from the Authority.”

In September 2017, the NCA, in an attempt to sanitise the broadcasting sector, shut down 34 radio and television stations for various infractions.

Radio Gold was accused of operating with a license that expired in the year 2000, and fined, as well as Radio XYZ and other stations.

The NCA referenced a 2018 ruling by the Electronic Communications Tribunal on the status of FM stations with expired authorisations, saying companies whose authorisations had expired reverted to the same position as fresh applicants.

It added that the applications were to go through the required procedure for new FM Broadcasting Authorisation.

Opposition to shut down

The move by the NCA met stiff opposition, most of which took a political twist, amidst criticism from Civil Society Organisations (CSOs).

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), in a statement on the closure, expressed that it was deeply concerned about the shutdown of Radio Gold and Radio XYZ.

They said those stations were a source of news, information and entertainment for thousands of listeners in Accra.

Meanwhile, the MFWA urged the management of the stations to approach the NCA to discuss an amicable settlement of their differences for the stations to resume broadcasting.

The political rival, the opposition NDC, whose mouthpiece had been zipped, said the closure was politically motivated to silence them.

The issue attracted a huge debate, leading to the Minister for Communications, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, answering questions on the exercise before Parliament.

Defending the action, Mrs. Owusu-Ekuful said the closure of the two stations was not politically motivated.

“It is not possible for me to target any particular radio station for political reasons. It’s not possible for me to target any radio station for special treatment,” she added.

The Table Will Turn – Mahama

As if the issue had died down, Mr. John Mahama, in August this year, in the Upper East Region, thanking the chiefs and people after the 2020 elections, spoke on it.

He said: “The constitution guarantees freedoms – human rights, freedom of association, and so many other things, freedom and independence of the media, and, indeed, there is a whole chapter on media freedom.

“Unfortunately, even when you have the best constitution, you can have governments that try to bend it to be able to achieve whatever ends they have, in terms of limiting our democratic rights. So, today, the government can say that a radio station has delayed paying its license fee and so we are shutting you down.

“When I talk about it, I talk about it because of the precedence it can set. Because the shoe can be on the other foot the next day, they say the stick that is used to beat Takyi, it is the same stick they will use to be Baah. So, the stations you don’t like, you can close them down today. When another government comes and decides to do the same thing to the stations they don’t like too, what kind of country will we be building?”