The National Communications Authority's (NCA) decision to impose various sanctions on some selected FM stations could lead to a rise of unemployment in the country, the Minority in Parliament has warned.
According to them, the NCA is subjecting the involved radio stations to "steep regulatory sanctions" which could in turn lead to over 5, 000 people losing their jobs.
The concerns by the minority come after the NCA imposed fines on some radio stations, while others also stand to have their licenses revoked following the completion of a nationwide FM Spectrum Audit.
It is understood that about 13 FM Authorisation Holders have also been given deadlines to pay up their debts owed the NCA or see their licenses completely revoked.
Among the radio stations caught up are Radio XYZ, Atinka FM, Radio Gold and Atlantis Radio, with the latter two accruing the most hefty of fines, that is, GHc 61,330,000 and GHc 60,350,000 respectively.
However, the Minority believe the ongoing exercise by the NCA could end up worsening the unemployment situation in the country if care is not taken.
In a statement signed by a Ranking Member on the Communications Committee, A.B.A Fuseini, the Minority described the decision to impose such sanctions on radio stations as "draconian", adding that "the NCA threaten to roll back the gains made so far in entrenching a vibrant media culture".
The minority also suggested that that NCA's actions were politically motivated, saying the entire exercise is geared towards "retribution particularly against stations that have traditionally been ideologically opposed to the current NPP administration".
Read the full statement by the Minority below:
STATEMENT BY MINORITY ON HIGH-HANDED REGULATORY SANCTIONS AGAINST SELECTED MEDIA HOUSES BY THE NATIONAL COMMUNICATIONS AUTHORITY
The Minority in Parliament has learnt with grave concern, of an on-going exercise by the National Communications Authority (NCA) under which selected media houses have been subjected to very steep regulatory sanctions.
It is our understanding that, about 131 radio stations have either had their authorization revoked, which means they have been taken off air, or have been slapped with very draconian fines running into tens of millions of Ghana cedis in some instances. Other kinds of sanctions have been applied in a variety of cases.
We are deeply troubled by this development which has grave implications for press freedom and media pluralism.These actions by the NCA threaten to roll back the gains made so far in entrenching a vibrant media culture.
While we acknowledge the NCA’s right to regulate the communications sector in a manner that ensures compliance with appropriate regulations, we are alarmed by the sweeping and heavy-handed approach under the current exercise.
The situation where alleged breaches of regulations dating back several years are suddenly cited as basis for the near-summary closure of radio stations and humongous fines, poses a mortal danger to the expansion of the frontiers of free expression.
Radio has become a foremost means of expression by large sections of our citizenry since the liberalization of the airwaves at the beginning of the current democratic dispensation. Entities operating within that space, therefore, ought to be acknowledged for their invaluable contributions to the growth of our democracy.
Regulatory enforcement ought to be undertaken in a reasonable manner that factors in the fragilities inherent in the operations of many radio stations.
The current revocation and sanctions regime appears to be monetizing the right to free expression and could be construed as an effort to exact retribution particularly against stations that have traditionally been ideologically opposed to the current NPP administration.
We are at a loss as to how millions of Ghana cedis can be imposed as fines on radio stations, failing which their authorization will be revoked only to have them sold to other entities for GHS 30,000.
The NCA does not also appear to have considered the deleterious impact this will have on jobs in the sector. We estimate that close to 5,000 people working in the affected stations will be rendered jobless should the current action persist.
This will only serve to worsen the precarious unemployment situation and add to the hardships Ghanaians are going through.
In light of the foregoing, we urge the NCA to as a matter of urgency suspend the on-going exercise and use dialogue and more flexible means to ensure compliance with relevant regulations.
This, we believe, will avert a situation where monetary value is placed on the right to free expression with its attendant difficulties.
Signed, Alhaji A.B.A. Fuseini (MP)
Ranking Member, Communications Committee.