Ghanaian regulators and local radio operators are at the outset of what looks to be a protracted stand-off. In late September, the National Communications Authority (NCA) levied approximately USD250 million in fines across 131 radio stations and cancelled licenses of others citing violations ranging from missed license fees to illegal operations. After its initial action, the regulator relented to a degree, significantly reducing fines for some companies and withdrawing license revocations for others.
The Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA), representing nine stations, has taken the matter to the Electronic Communications Tribunal and the latter has placed a temporary suspension of fines on the firms associated with GIBA while it adjudicates. For the remaining 120 odd radio stations, the NCA very much expects compliance. However, a source within the National Media Commission told us that, to date, none of the sanctioned stations have paid the fines imposed on them and that many would rather pay a nominal fee and have their licenses revoked as the stations they used to operate have long lain unused.
While the NCA may hope that the resale of revoked licenses will provide alternative revenue, new entrants may be reticent. Radio remains an important source of news and culture for Ghana but this fracas underscores difficulties surrounding this subindustry. A former station owner we spoke to said that he advises friends to not enter the radio business as the NCA “feels too free nowadays. Obviously, they have a regulatory mandate but they never consult with owners or associations such as GIBA before taking unilateral actions.”
The above paragraphs are excerpted from an advisory note shared with clients on 10 Dec.
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