Shutdown of Salt FM raises transparency issues

The shutdown of Salt FM based in the Asante Akyem North District of the Ashanti Region, raises once more, the question of transparency in the enforcement of broadcast license regulations in Ghana.

On Tuesday, February 6, a team from Ghana’s communications regulator, National Communications Authority (NCA), paid a visit to the premises of Salt FM to shut down the facility over failure to renew its authorisation license.

The closure, which is widely perceived to be politically-motivated, triggered an instant demonstration by hundreds of residents. The NCA, however insist that it is only enforcing the licensing regime, adding that it acted after several reminders to the station had been ignored. The Authority said similar actions have been taken against other radio stations across the country.

The station belongs to Ohene Kwame Frimpong, who is planning to run as an independent parliamentary candidate in the 2024 elections. On February 4, security personnel intervened to stop a health walk in the town, which had been organised by Frimpong to announce his bid to contest the December legislative elections. The constituency is currently represented in Parliament by Andy Appiah-Kubi of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP).

The police allege that the organizers did not inform them about the gathering as required under the Public Order Act.

On February 7, the management of Salt FM held a meeting with the NCA to seek a settlement. While awaiting the NCA’s next move, the station has moved its transmission online.

Meanwhile, the Office of Andy Appiah-Kubi has denied being consulted in any way about the closure of Salt FM.

“He would like to state categorically that he has not met or spoken with any NCA official in relating to the closure of salt fm. As a matter of fact, he is not aware of any attempt by any government official for the cause [sic] of the closure of Salt fm which is in his constituency,” read, a statement dated February 7, 2024 and signed by Derrick Yaw Amoah, an aide to the MP.

The MFWA is concerned that the closure of Salt FM denies the station’s listeners their favourite source of news and entertainment, and calls for an urgent settlement. While we are disappointed at the failure of the Management of the station to discharge their statutory financial obligations to the regulator, we are inclined to believe that the station has been targeted by the authorities for political reasons. The NCA’s claim that it has shut down other stations for non-payment of licensing fees does not answer all the questions about transparency and fairness. The Authority should prove that all stations currently operating are in good standing, as demanded by the MFWA following the media shutdowns of 2019. The regulator should restore on its website comprehensive data showing all authorised broadcast stations, their dates of authorisation and dates of last renewal. This will banish all doubts when media houses are shut down for non-compliance.

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