I’ve been lenient with community radio stations – Ursula tells Parliament

Minister for Communications, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, Thursday, told Parliament on Thursday that she has been lenient on community radio stations that have failed, refused and or neglected to abide by the conditions for the grant of frequency authorizations by the NCA.

She said unlike the 131 radio stations that are currently facing sanctions as a result of non compliance with the law, the community radio stations that have been caught to have also flouted the laws of the land have been left off the hook because they have not been making profit.

The National Communications Authority (NCA) in March this year announced that it was conducting a spectrum audit and an advertisement in this regard was published in the Daily Graphic edition of Thursday, March 9, 2017, clearly stating the objectives of the audit.

After the advertisement and conclusion of the audit, letters were sent to all defaulting FM stations. However, they failed in both instances to rectify the identified defaults.

So far, 131 radio stations with authorization holders have defaulted in complying with the law, with some of them being closed down by the regulating agency, the NCA.

Such stiff punishment has however, received some condemnation from a cross section of the public who argued that the path being towed by the government is an act in violation of free expression or threats to press freedom.

Some have even accused the government of being political with its approach in applying the law.

But Mrs. Owusu-Ekuful delivering a statement on the floor of the House with regards to defaulted FM stations said it is absurd for people to suggest that the 131 offending stations have been targeted for political reasons.

“If any of them feel they have not gone contrary to their authorization, they can raise that with the NCA and it will be dealt with. Actions taken to enforce statute and judicial decisions cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, no matter how fertile, be termed political persecution, acts in violation of free expression or threats to press freedom. There is a clear need for proper regulations and management of this scarce and finite resource to ensure an orderly broadcasting environment and the NCA’s prudent management of this valuable resource over the years, has supported media pluralism, as by reducing coverage areas for commercial FM stations, it made more frequencies available for the ever increasing requests, ” she noted.

But the MP for Bingo Prampram, Sam George contributing to the statement accuses the NCA of perpetuating illegality in sanctioning the defaulted FM stations.

He said the schedule fees being used by the NCA to impose sanctions on the radio stations have not been approved by Parliament, stressing that the legislature is the only institution mandated to approve fees and charges in the country.

MP for Effutu, Alexander Afenyo-Markin also contributing to the statement said there has never been any breach of the law by the NCA in applying sanctions to the defaulted FM stations.

Sam George, he argued, could not find a single evidence of the breach of the law by the NCA in his delivery, noting further that the law gives the spectrum regulating agency the power to sanction and the Minister the power to review the sanctions when petitioned.

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