The operators of the pro-opposition radio station, Radio Gold, have said the closure of the station on Thursday by the airwaves regulator was an extreme action.
The management of Network Broadcasting Company Ltd, operators of the station, stated in a press release issued on May 9 that the station’s attempts to submit the required documentation to the National Communication Authority (NCA) for renewal of frequency authorisation has been unsuccessful.
“The closure of Radio Gold is high-handed and runs contrary to the spirit of engagement that has existed between the NCA and the station.
“That the above notwithstanding, our legal representatives will continue to engage the NCA With the view to resolving the matter in issue to ensure a wick resumption of our normal programming,” the operators of the station said.
Officials of the NCA, accompanied by armed policemen, stormed the premises of Radio Gold and another pro-National Democratic Congress (NDC) station, Radio XYZ, and ordered their immediate closure on Thursday.
The two stations were handed letters detailing the reasoning behind the order and asked to re-apply for a fresh license if they still wished to operate as Frequency Modulation (FM) radio stations.
Both stations were shut down around midday as an enforcement-action following the decision of the Electronic Communications Tribunal, the NCA explained.
A statement issued the NCA said the Authority is shutting down radio stations operating without valid authorisations.
Radio Gold, however, said the NCA’s unexplained rejection of its documentation considerably stalled the renewal process, their best efforts notwithstanding.
“We had hoped that any action of the sort undertaken by the NCA on Thursday would have been preceded with prior and adequate notification,” the Radio Gold press statement said.
According to the station, the station was shut down while it was providing intermittent live coverage of the press conference by the NDC Council of Elders at its headquarters.
A statement issued by the NCA explained that “Following the FM Spectrum Audit in 2017, some stations were found to be in default and were fined by the Authority. However, some of the stations in default were not satisfied and proceeded to the various courts; Electronic Communications Tribunal (ECT) and the High Court to appeal against the NCA’s decision.”
The NCA said this move resulted in a decision by the ECT in 2018 which reviewed the status of expired FM Radio Broadcasting Authorisations and ruled among others that companies whose authorisations had expired reverted to the same position as a fresh applicant.
While some stations shut down following this decision others did not, the NCA statement said.
“To this end, and in line with Regulations 65 (1) of the Electronic Communications Regulations, 2011, L. I. 1991, which states that “A person shall not use a radio frequency without authorization from the Authority” the National Communications Authority (NCA) is enforcing the shutdown of FM radio stations who are operating without authorisation.
“It should be noted that, as ruled by the ECT, submission of renewal application after the expiry of authorization is not a valid application and therefore shall not be considered by the Authority, ” the statement said.
Meanwhile, the Ghana Independence Broadcasters Association (GIBA) has described the shutdown of the two stations as too harsh.
President of the association, Andrew Danso Anninkora, said on Joy News’ Top Story Thursday that, the way out to resolve the impasse is “not the recitation of laws but dialogue.”
According to him, GIBA “has a cordial relationship” with the NCA and hopes that situations like this should provide an opportunity for parties to “sit down and agree for mutual benefit.”
Bemoaning the posture of the NCA in recent times, Mr Anninkora feels it may not portend well for the cordiality which has existed in the past.
“The NCA is being harsh in dealing with its members. NCA in recent times is applying very harsh methods,” he lamented
According to him, prior to this recent decision, no communication had gone on.
“We can quote laws to support whatever we want to do” but are we saying these stations never had licenses?
Mr Anninkora alleged that letters which his members had written to the NCA seeking renewal of their licenses have not been responded to.
“Nobody is a criminal. None of these stations is involved in any criminal activities in this country.”
Mr Anninkora said, “State authorities should let fairness prevail.”
He believes that the relationship which has existed between the NCA and its members can “be relied upon to get people to comply.”