Following the expiration of the general amnesty granted defaulting FM stations on 19 December 2017 to regularise their authorisation conditions, the National Communications Authority will be moving in to close down defaulting radio stations.
The Authority had indicated previously that all defaulting commercial FM Stations (revoked and fined) in line with the general amnesty granted, were to rectify all outstanding issues by Monday, 15 January 2018, and pay a pecuniary penalty based on the number of days of violation but shall not exceed one year in any case.
A statement issued by the NCA said while some radio stations took advantage of the general amnesty and have met their outstanding regulatory requirements including the payment of outstanding fees and, or penalties, others failed to take advantage of this, resulting in the decision to shut them down.
The regulator said substantial benefits from the audit and its aftermath, including increase in regulatory compliance, voluntary renewal applications, payment of outstanding regulatory fees, impact on other regulated services, clean-up of records and reinforcement of NCA’s regulatory role, were some of the reasons given for the general amnesty.
The NCA encouraged all licencees and authorisation holders to comply with the terms and conditions of their various licences and authorisations for a well-regulated communications industry which will serve and benefit all Ghanaians.
The NCA granted the amnesty late last year. Minister of Communications, Mrs Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, announced the amnesty at the 22nd Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) Awards held in Accra.
In September last year, the NCA sanctioned 131 radio stations for violating certain aspects of the Electronics Communications Act (2009), Act 775.
As part of the sanctions, some of them were fined, while others had their licences revoked.
Following the sanctions, some media stakeholders and the affected radio stations petitioned the NCA.
In response to the petition, the Ministry of Communications and the NCA slashed the fines for the sanctioned commercial FM broadcasting stations by 50 per cent and gave an additional 30 days to them to pay the slashed fines.
Mrs Owusu-Ekuful said the amnesty given to the defaulting FM stations superseded all sanctions given in relation to the FM Spectrum Audit.
“The only exception is the waiver granted to community and campus FM stations given earlier in the year which remains unchanged, to wit, reprieve from a pecuniary penalty but required to meet all regulatory obligations by 19th November 2017,” she said.
Giving details of the general amnesty, the minister said: “All sanctioned commercial FM stations (revoked and fined) are to rectify all outstanding issues by Monday, January 15, 2018 and pay a pecuniary penalty.”
She explained that the penalty should be based on the number of days of violation from July 28, 2016 but should not exceed one year in any case.
“Depending on the location and whether the radio station involved was a commercial or community radio, the payment ranged between GH¢10,000 for urban type one FM radio and GH¢3,000 for those located in rural communities,” she said.
Mrs Owusu-Ekuful said all affected commercial FM stations were required to pay the applicable reduced pecuniary rates per day, in addition to any outstanding regulatory fees, and the submission of all outstanding documentation by Monday, January 15, 2018 to be in good standing.
“Any station that is unable to meet the requirements to be in good standing by the specified date under this amnesty will have its authorisation revoked,” she said.
She said stations whose authorisations were revoked as announced earlier shall pay the applicable pecuniary penalty rate, in addition to any outstanding regulatory fees, and the submission of all outstanding documentation or invitation for inspection by Monday, 15th January, 2018.
“They will be required to meet these obligations before they are reinstated and permitted to commence operations,” she added.