Ghana’s communications regulator – the National Communication Authority (NCA) – has closed down nine cable television channels broadcasting without requisite licences for years and churning out content deemed inappropriate for viewers.
The affected stations had been warned several times, but they failed to obtain the necessary licences, and used a third party infrastructure provider to send their programmes onto a satellite television platform.
Technically, according to our constitution, none of those nine stations are in breach and they are not required to get a licence
“In this recent case, the stations were detected sometime last year and notice was sent to the third party provider and the satellite company, a number of engagements went on, including the granting of a grace period to ensure compliance,” the licensing authority said in a statement.
“We encourage all stakeholders to ensure compliance with the regulations covering the industry to ensure an orderly communications environment.”
The crackdown followed the continuous violation of the country’s electronic communications law (Act 775, 2008), which mandates anyone intending to operate a broadcasting network to get frequency approval from the regulator.
Section 2(4) of the law states, among other things, “a person shall not operate a broadcasting system or provide a broadcasting services without a frequency authorisation by the Authority [NCA]”.
However, the regulator said, “[it] observed that over a period of time, a number of TV stations were operating on satellite on the Ku Band frequency – 12522MHz – on the Astra 2F satellite, without authorisation from the authority”.
The NCA consequently directed that these stations be taken off the satellite platform – Multimedia Broadcasting limited, which has an authorisation to provide free-to-air Satellite television services under the Multi TV brand.
The authority advised advertisers and the public to cross-check the list of authorised stations published on its official website before doing business with any platform.
The unlicensed networks are largely owned and operated by politicians and religious leaders, whose actions and comments have been linked to the regulators’ decision to blackout the channels.
The Independent Broadcasters Association lent its support to the NCA’s action, but denied the shutdown had to do with the controversial statements a local pastor made, telling his congregants last month that he could change into any creature and appear in people’s dreams.
The Ghana Independent Broadcasters’ Association said the group did not “condone piracy” in broadcasting, and that the clampdown would safeguard sanity and compliance of the law in the industry.
“We urged the NCA to ensure that everyone adheres to the authorisations,” the association’s president, Akwasi Agyeman, told local media on Thursday.
But founder of Ghana’s first private radio station, Radio Eye, Charles Wereko-Brobby, told local press on Thursday that the NCA had breached the country’s constitution by taking the nine TV channels off-air.
“Technically, according to our constitution, none of those nine stations are in breach and they are not required to get a licence, so this is a murky area and I’m glad that the chickens are coming home to roost and the Supreme Court will decide on this matter,” he said.
Article 123(3) of Ghana’s constitution states in part, “there shall be no impediments to the establishment of private press or media; and in particular, there shall be no law requiring any person to obtain a licence as a prerequisite to the establishment or operation of a newspaper, journal or other media for mass communication or information”.