Closure of radio stations in 2019 not ‘politically motivated’ – Ursula

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Flashback: Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, communications minister, at the Meet-The-Press

The Communications and Digitalisation Minister-designate, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful has mounted a strong defense at the decision by the National Communications Authority (NCA) to close down some radio stations across the country in 2019.

Mrs Ekuful says the action was not politically motivated adding that the NCA acted in accordance with the Electronic Communication Law of 2008 in shutting down radio stations.

According to her, rumours of her having abused power and threatening democracy is false.

Upon taking office in 2017, the Ablekuma West MP said to fulfil her promise of delivering her best, she conducted an FM Broadcasting Audit. An audit she says, which revealed that a total of 144 radio stations had committed several infractions which necessitated their shutdown.

“Ursula has not closed down any radio station…it was by operation of the Law…the NCA conducted an audit exercise which indicated that 144 radio stations had committed several infractions which necessitated that they be sanctioned,” she said.

Considering Ghana’s democracy and the practice of freedom of speech, the minister-designate for information was asked by a member of the Appointments Committee if she would describe the shutdown of FM stations as a breach of that freedom.

Madam Ursula added that it would be inappropriate for anyone to think the NCA in its execution of duty deliberately would deliberately infringe on the right to free expression.

According to her, as a citizen of this country, everyone, including the owners of the media houses, is subject to the laws of the land and the necessary sanctions where applicable.

“To enjoy a right, you come to equity with clean hands, but if you flout the same law which grants you the right to operate as a radio station in furtherance of the freedom of expression, we cannot by any stretch of the imagination say that when the law is being applied, it means its an infringement of the right to free expression.

Background

The National Communication Authority is mandated by section 2 of the Electronic Communication Act 2008 (Act 775) to regulate the radio spectrum designated or allocated for use by broadcasting organizations and providers of broadcasting services.

At the end of the audit, 56 FM stations were closed down, of which 43 submitted fresh applications for re-authorization.

Thirty of these applications have been processed and granted new authorizations to operate, while the remaining 13, will be processed within the first quarter of 2021.

After the FM audit, fines were imposed on the affected stations. While some of the operators started paying, others kicked against it, going as far as the Electronic Communications Tribunal who decided that the NCA had acted wrongfully in imposing fines on those whose authorization had expired and had not applied for renewal.

Currently, there are 625 authorized FM stations in Ghana as of the end of 2020; with a total of 452 representing 72% in operation while 173 stations representing 28 % are not yet in operation.

Source: Daily Mail GH with files from myjoyonline.com

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