By Robert Anane, GNA
Accra, Dec 20, GNA - The National Communications Authority (NCA), has given a general amnesty to defaulting FM Radio Stations.
A release from the Authority and copied to the Ghana News Agency, says at the 149th Meeting of the Board of Directors of the NCA held on Wednesday, 13th December, 2017, approval was granted for an amnesty to defaulting FM Radio Stations following the completion of an audit earlier this year and to bring closure to events following FM Radio audit.
It said this superseded all sanctions given in relation to the FM Spectrum Audit, adding that the only exception was the waiver granted to Community and Campus Radio FM Stations given earlier on in the year “which remains unchanged, to wit, reprieve from pecuniary penalty,but required to meet all regulatory obligations by 19th November, 2017”.
The release said the amnesty meant that all sanctioned commercial FM Station, were to rectify all outstanding issues by Monday, 15th January, 2018, and pay a pecuniary penalty, based on the number of days of violation from 28th July, 2016, but shall not exceed one year in any case.
It described the authorised geographical location class as Urban Type GH¢ 1,10,000, Urban Type 2-GH¢9,000, Sub-Urban Type 1-GH¢7,000, Sub Urban Type 2-GH¢5,000 and Rural GH¢3,000.
The release said ‘all affected commercial FM Stations shall pay the applicable reduced pecuniary penalty rates per day in addition to any outstanding regulatory fees and the submission of all outstanding documentation by Monday, 15th January, 2018, to be in good standing’
It said any station that was unable to meet the requirements to be in good standing by the specified date under this amnesty would have its authorisation revoked.
“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, the release said, adding that they would also be required to meet these obligations before they are reinstated and permitted to commence operations.
It said the general amnesty was granted because there had been substantial benefits from the audit and its aftermath including; the following the increase in regulatory compliance, with about 90 per cent of the sanctioned stations having remedied the breach by either submitting renewal applications, outstanding documents, paid outstanding regulatory and spectrum fees or invited the Authority for inspection of their facilities.
Following the issuance of the sanctions, there has been voluntary submission of renewal applications from stations whose Authorisations were due to expire this year, whilst there has been a surge in the payment of outstanding regulatory fees by both affected and non-affected FM radio broadcasting stations, the release said.
It said as a result of the FM Spectrum Audit, the regulatory decisions and the general public discussions, there had been a positive impact on other regulated services including; Television, ISPs, Value Added Services, Infrastructure and Submarine Cable Company Authorisation.
The release said holders of these services had also voluntarily begun paying outstanding regulatory fees, applying for renewals and complying with their respective Authorisation Conditions.
It said the audit processes had assisted the Authority to clean up its records and update its databases, adding that the audit and subsequent sanctions had led to a boost of the NCA’s regulatory role and authority, with generally positive publicity.
A qualitative content analysis of comments and feedback indicated appreciation for the NCA’s functions and the need for the Authority to enforce compliance, and had also enabled the NCA to wipe the slate clean and ensure that all regulatory documentation are up to date, the release said.
It said Authorisation Holders ensuring compliance, had spilled over to other services that were regulated by the NCA.
The release said following the FM Audit, the Authority had carried out audits of other services including; Television Broadcasting, Internet/Public Data Service Provision, VSAT Licences amongst several others, adding that there were eighteen (18) other services, yet to be audited and that would be done in due course.
It said the opportunity for ensuring compliance and curing infractions begun in June, 2017, so in effect, defaulting companies had over five (5) months to comply with their authorisation obligations.
“The NCA is determined to ensure that all operators within the industry are fully compliant with their legal and regulatory obligations.”
“After this amnesty, the NCA will strictly enforce compliance with all regulated services”, the release said, adding that the amnesty brought a closure to the FM Audit, and consolidated the successes achieved from the process thus far.