Minister-designate for Communications and Digitalisation Mrs Ursula Owusu-Ekuful has parried accusations that she targeted Radio Gold and Muntie FM, well-known opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) sympathetic radio stations for closure.
According to her, the mandate to effect closure of radio stations was the responsibility of the National Communication Authority (NCA), which indeed shut down the stations along with many others.
Mr Owusu-Ekuful maintained that Radio Gold and Muntie FM were not targeted for closure because of their affiliation to NDC or their opposition to the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP).
These stations, she said, flouted the law and acted in contravention of the regulation that required them to acquire authorization before operating.
“Nobody could have touched them or targeted them no matter how much you dislike or hated them, you couldn’t touch them because they would have been in compliance with the law,” she stated.
Clarifying accusations that she targeted and closed these two stations along with others, the Minister-designate, during her vetting by the Appointments Committee of Parliament on Monday said, “Ursula has not closed down any radio station.”
She pointed out that the NCA is mandated by Section 2 of the Electronic Communications Act 2008, Act 775 to regulate the radio spectrum allocated to broadcasting organisations.
According to her, what she did when she assumed office was to charge the NCA to enforce the law that was being breached by many radio stations.
Mrs. Owusu-Ekuful disclosed there were 625 authorized FM Stations in the country as of the end of 2020 with a total of 452 (72%) in operation and 172 (28%) not yet in operation.
She told the Committee that in 2017 the NCA conducted an audit exercise that indicated 144 FM stations had committed several infractions and needed to be sanctioned.
She said, “At the end of the exercise 56 stations were closed down.”
“43 resubmitted fresh applications for authorization out of which 30 have been processed and granted new authorization while 13 are still being processed.”
The Minister-designate indicated that by way of punishment the NCA imposed fines on some of the affected stations but some chose to challenge the fines in court.
The court, she pointed, decided the NCA acted wrongfully in imposing fines on stations that had not applied after expiration of their authorizations.
According to her, since the law does to allow such stations to operate, the NCA was compelled to shut them down.
She argued the closures are by operation of law and therefore not an affront to the freedom of expression as is being claimed.
Mrs Owusu-Ekuful stressed that the radio stations that flouted the law are subject to the application of sanctions and therefore nobody can imply same is an infringement on the right of freedom of expression.
The Minister-designate stated that besides the fact that it was impossible to target any particular station for special treatment, she also had no idea their political leanings or their owners.