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NCA’s 30-day grace period for fined FM stations elapses

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The fate of over 130 radio stations that were found to have breached Section 13 of the Electronics Communications Act (2009), Act 775 is yet to be determined by the National Communications Authority (NCA).

Citi News’ checks show that most of the defaulting stations are operational after a 30-day ultimatum given by the Communications Ministry expired over the weekend.

The NCA is yet to take a concrete decision on these sanctioned stations.

The NCA sanctioned 131 stations for various offences in September 2017. These sanctions ranged from the withdrawal of licenses to the imposition of fines, mostly retrospective, amounting to over GHc 1 billion.

97 of the stations picked up fines. Radio Gold and Atlantis Radio picked up the heftiest fines of GHc 61,330,000 and GHc 60,350,000 respectively.

On October 20, the Ministry of Communications and the NCA slashed the fines for the commercial FM Broadcasting stations by 50 percent, and granted a waiver to community radio stations.

The stations still owing fines were given 30 days, from October 20, to pay the slashed fines, but there is no indication that payments have been made.

Some of the FM stations eventually shut down voluntarily, whereas others were compelled by the NCA to do so, but  Accra-based Okay FM, which was shut down after its license was revoked, is back on air.

Legal action

The action from the NCA attracted some legal resistance with Chris Ackumey, a private legal Practitioner and a member of the legal team of the opposition National Democratic Congress suing it over the sanctions.

He wants the court to declare the sanctions illegal, and also compel the NCA to compensate the affected stations which he says were “unlawfully” sanctioned.

Break down of sanctioned stations

According to the NCA, eleven (11) radio stations have been requested to pay application fees for renewal of Authorisation, and also pay a fine in accordance with the NCA’s gazetted Schedule of Penalties for failure to apply 3 months before the expiry of Authorization within 30 days.

Two (2) radio stations have been asked to submit renewal application within 30 days.

Sixteen (16) radio stations have been asked to submit renewal application, pay application fees, and pay a fine in accordance with the Authority’s gazetted Schedule of Penalties within 30 days.

Twenty‐four (24) radio stations have been asked to submit omitted documents and pay a fine in accordance with the Authority’s gazetted Schedule of Penalties within 30 days.

Fifteen (15) radio stations will have their Authorisation processed after payment of fines in accordance with the Authority’s gazetted Schedule of Penalties.

One (1) radio station has been asked to settle its outstanding indebtedness before renewal of Authorization is considered.

Twenty (20) radio stations have been asked to settle their Provisional Authorization (renewal) fees which have been invalidated due to non‐payment within sixty days – to pay interest on due amount.

Eight (8) radio stations have been asked to pay a fine in accordance with the NCA’s gazette Schedule of Penalties before the authority conducts inspections as requested by the stations.

34 of the sanctioned stations had their licences revoked because their authorizations had expired and were operating illegally.

By: Philip Nii Lartey/citifmonline.com/Ghana