According to the legislator, the NCA had reviewed the default sanctions for radio stations which fall foul of the regulations, without seeking Parliamentary approval, which he says is required per the Constitution.
He added that, despite being mandated by an Act of Parliament to impose fines and sanctions of any implicated media organisations, the Constitution requires that any amendments to the sanctions would need the approval of Parliament before implementation.
“Section 72 (1) (e) of Act 775, gives the NCA the power to manage and impose fines, and I have absolutely no qualms with that. However, any L.I or Act is subsidiary to the 1992 Constitution,” Sam George said on Eyewitness News on Thursday.
“174 (2) [of the 1992 Constitution), which is where my argument is, says that where an Act enacted in accordance with Clause 1 of this Article, confers power on any person or authority (in this case the NCA), to waive or vary a tax as imposed by that Act, the exercise of the power of waiver or variation in favour of any person or authority, shall be subject to the prior approval of Parliament by resolution.”
Sam George explained that, NCA had in 2015, reviewed the “flat fines” of GHc 1, 000 and Ghc 2,000 in addition to other sanctions that might be imposed by the regulator.
He, however stated that, despite gazetting the new sanctions of a daily fine of GHc10, 000, the NCA failed to bring them before the House for debate and approval.
“L.I 1991 set out a schedule of penalties in which it is clearly stated there that, for contraventions of your license regulatory framework, which is what the NCA is talking about, two [sanctions] are imposed. The first is a financial fine, where it’s stated clearly that for those contraventions, a flat fine ranging between 1, 000 cedis and 2, 000 cedis, and any other sanctions as the NCA or the Authority may deem fit. It means that, a financial fine has been placed, and any other sanctions could be added to it. In 2015, the NCA chose to review its schedule of penalties, which is where my argument is,” he contended.
“It did not come to Parliament in 2015. They varied the penalties from 1, 000 and 2, 000 to 10, 000 cedis a day. It didn’t come before the subsidiary legislation committee in Parliament, and before the floor of the House for approval, and that’s why I’m saying that the schedule of penalties, even though it was duly gazetted on the 25th of April in 2015, is illegal. It did not take cognizance of Article 174 (2). They might have gazetted it, but did they seek Parliamentary approval before gazetting it”? he asked.
The stations, including Accra-based Radio Gold, Atlantis Radio and Radio XYZ, 3-FM, were either fined or had their licenses revoked by the National Communications Authority (NCA), following the completion of a nationwide FM Spectrum Audit.
Radio XYZ was fined GHc 4,090,000, Atinka FM GHc 14,800,000, while Radio Gold and Atlantis Radio picked up the heftiest fines with GHc 61,330,000 and GHc 60, 350,000 respectively.
Accra-based Okay FM and Kumasi-based Hello FM, both under the Despite group, have since been shut down as a result of the failure to pay their fines.
He also reiterated the Minority’s assertion that the NCA was monetising free speech in the country with the huge fines.
The Minister of Communications, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, had earlier defended the NCA’s sanctions on the floor of Parliament, stating that the regulator’s actions were backed by law.
“Clause 2(1) of the Electronic Communications Act, 2008 (Act 775) further mandates the NCA to regulate the radio spectrum designated or allocated for use by broadcasting organisations and providers of broadcasting services in accordance with the standards and requirements of the International Telecommunications Union and its Radio Regulations as agreed to or adopted by the Republic,” she said.
“These provisions give the NCA the clear mandate to manage spectrum and issue, suspend or revoke frequency authorizations, and that is simply what they seek to do. ”
By: Edwin Kwakofi/citifmonline.com