The National Communications Authority (NCA) has approved the granting of a total of 133 FM radio broadcasting authorisations to some entities.
This include new applications from entities whose FM radio stations were closed down after the 2017 FM audit as well as existing stations which applied for renewal of their expired FM Radio broadcasting authorisations.
Graphic Online understands Radio Gold and Radio XYZ which were closed down after the 2017 FM audit are among the entities whose new applications have been approved.
Fifty-seven out of the 144 Frequency Modulation (FM) stations that were cited for various infractions in a 2017 audit exercise by the NCA were shut down in 2019.
In accordance with the decisions of the Electronic Communication Tribunal (ECT), 30 out of the 57 stations submitted fresh applications for FM authorisations.
In the case of Radio Gold for example, the licence was revoked over non payment of operating licence fees over a long period.
The Electronic Communication Tribunal therefore ruled that by that act, the license had expired.
It is however, not automatic that they will be getting their old frequencies after the granting of the new authorisation.
This is because, the NCA allocates frequencies based on availability.
Besides, the approval is subject to the applicants attending a sensitisation workshop on the terms and conditions of FM radio broadcasting authorisations.
The sensitation workshop Graphic Online understands will take place on Tuesday, October 19, 2021. It is a one day event.
The approval was made by the new Governing Board of the NCA chaired Isaac Emmil Osei-Bonsu at its meeting on Monday, October 11, 2021.
A press statement dated October 12, 2021 issued by the NCA explained that the entities put in a new application based on which the NCA is granting them the license.
“This approval from the Board is subject to the applicants attending a sensitisation workshop on the terms and conditions of FM radio broadcasting authorisations.”
“The workshop shall clarify the legal, regulatory, and technical requirements for the establishment and operation of an FM Radio Broadcasting station,” the statement added.
It said provisional authorisations shall be issued to the successful applicants at the end of the workshop and frequencies shall be assigned to the applicants only upon the fulfillment of the conditions of the Provisional Authorisation.
It reminded the public that per Section 2(4) of the Electronic Communications Act, 2008, Act 775, a person shall not operate a broadcasting system or provide a broadcasting service without a frequency authorisation by the Authority. Offenders are liable on summary conviction to a fine of not more than three thousand penalty units or to a term of imprisonment of not more than five years or to both, as per Section 73 of Act 775 of 2008.
Why NCA shut down unauthorized Radio Gold and XYZ
The NCA in 2019 explained that it shut down Radio Gold, Radio XYZ and some other radio stations because they failed to comply with the ruling of the Electronic Communications Tribunal (ECT).
Following the FM Spectrum Audit in 2017, some stations were found to be in default and were fined by the NCA.
However, some of the stations in default were not satisfied and proceeded to the various courts; Electronic Communications Tribunal (ECT) and the High Court to appeal against the NCA’s decision.
This resulted in a decision by the ECT in 2018 which reviewed the status of expired FM Radio Broadcasting Authorisations and which ruled among others that Companies whose authorisations had expired reverted to the same position as a fresh applicant.
While some stations shut down following this decision, others did not.
To this end, and in line with Regulations 65 (1) of the Electronic Communications Regulations, 2011, L. I. 1991, which states that “A person shall not use a radio frequency without authorisation from the Authority” the NCA enforced the shutdown of FM radio stations who were operating without authorisation.
Why the delay?
As ruled by the ECT, submission of renewal application after expiry of authorisation is not a valid application and therefore shall not be considered by the NCA.
While companies affected by the shut down could have submitted fresh applications to the NCA if they so wish, the applications shall go through the required procedure for new FM Broadcasting Authorisation and the outcome communicated to the applicants.
Entities are only authorised to use frequencies for a specific duration or period.
Frequencies are national assets and not the properties of users as they are not assigned to users in perpetuity.
All licence and authorisation holders are to ensure compliance with the various terms of their licences and authorisations, and as well the relevant regulations.