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21.06.2004 Feature Article

ASEMSEBE (Uncensored thoughts of KSM)

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Hi folks, let me get straight to the point. Today, I am taking on the NCA which is playing dirty politics with frequency allocation. How do I know? I am a victim of blatant discrimination and really saddened by the cheap politicization of frequency allocation.

I applied for a frequency to operate a radio station in September 1998. Please note, that when I applied, I went through the normal process which was indicated to me at the time by the NCA and accordingly developed a comprehensive proposal and filled out forms that were provided to me by the NCA.

After almost a year, I was finally granted a frequency to operate a radio station. A letter signed by Major Tandoh dated 6th August 1999, stated:

I am pleased to inform you that the Frequency Board by virtue of the powers conferred on it by Section 45 (2) (c ) of the NCA Act 524, 1996 has approved your application to enable you set up a VHF FM Radio Station in the Accra Metropolis in the Greater Accra Region on an assigned frequency on 97.3 Mhz..”

I started suspecting foul play when sometime in October, I went to the NCA to pay the ¢10,000,000 non-refundable fee and was told to hold on because Major Tandoh was out of the country.

On the 15th of November, 1999, I received a second letter from the NCA, signed by Mr. J.K. Gyimah, stating that Major Tandoh as chairman had no authority to issue the frequency. The letter stated:.. “consequently the authorization is null and void. You are further informed that in connection with the freeze on the allocation of frequencies announced by the Ministry of Communications, this office is undertaking a rationalisation of the various frequency assignments. Accordingly, you will be duly advised of the status of your application in due course. Please note the NCA never bothered to get back in touch with me about the status of my application after repeated requests.

Anyway folks, let's pick these issues one by one. On the issue of Major Tandoh not having authority, I challenged the NCA on that claim. At the time, the issuing authority confirmed that as Chairman, he derived his authority from Section 45 (2) (c ) of the NCA 524 which states: “the Frequency Board in existence immediately before the coming into force of this act shall until the Board of the Authority is constituted, grant frequencies and perform related functions provided under this Act; the Minister shall until the Board of the Authority is constituted, exercise all powers conferred on the Board under this act. It stands to reason, that since the NCA did not have a board at that time, the chairman had every right to issue the letter of authorization as he had done for most of the existing private radio stations. I challenged the NCA to explain how come some of his authorizations for the existing radio stations were valid but the one for mine was null and void! The NCA is yet to answer.

On the second issue regarding the so-called freeze on the allocation of frequencies, that was a blatant lie. I pointed it out to the NCA that at the time that the so-called freeze was in force, several frequencies, both foreign and domestic, were issued. I am aware of a local FM radio which applied for its frequency in March 1999. The frequency for this FM station was approved in April 1999. This was during the period of the so-called freeze. I asked the NCA to explain how come the freeze affected me and not the other station which applied one year after me. The NCA never responded to this. It is also important to note that I informed the NCA that I was not aware of any applicants including myself who had received any previous notification of a freeze on radio frequencies.

Let us not beat around the bush, folks, at the time, it was getting close to the 2000 election and the NDC was not comfortable with me operating my own radio station. I had the “NPP” tag at the time and I have no doubt it played a strong role in the manipulation of the NCA to take that action against me. It is important to note folks, that contrary to the NDC suspicion that I was an NPP plant in the media, I remained neutral and refused to join the media band-wagon which became blatantly pro-NPP before the election. It is not surprising that soon after the election, The Minister of Communications, officially announced that the so-called freeze was over and my frequency, 97.3 had been re-released back to me.

Folks, I rushed to the NCA to pay the fee. Again, they would not take it because they claimed they were waiting for “official directions.” Few days later, I heard on Joy FM that Hon Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey had revoked all new frequencies including mine. My guess is that I had been too neutral in the election and it was payback time for not joining the NPP bandwagon. I was then wearing the NDC tag. For the second time, I became a victim of the petty politics of intolerance and partisan labelling. First under NDC, now under NPP.

97.3 Mhz, the frequency assigned to me has now been officially reassigned to a new station, CITY FM. It will begin transmission on the 1st of July 2004. I have no doubt in my mind that those behind it must be “politically correct” and acceptable to the NPP. That is Ghana for you. Real positive change!

Let me note finally, that at the time when I received the approval, both Major Tandoh and Hon John Mahama, then Minister of Communications, congratulated me for offering Ghana an exceptional and very educative proposal which promised to elevate the state of radio broadcasting in the country. It is therefore disappointing that an Act, and for that matter an Authority which was created to ensure, in the words of the NCA Act, “efficiency in the provision of communication services” is being politically manipulated to prevent good talent from entering the market.

But think about this folks, even if I was NPP or NDC or for that matter belonged to any other party, should my political affiliation prevent me from owning a radio station? Isn't being a qualified hard working law-abiding Ghanaian enough? Do you have to be a praise singer for government to qualify to be a media owner? And this is the era of the Rule Of Law?

What are my options now? The rightful thing to do is to take the NCA to Court and have 97.3 reassigned to me. The NCA should gear up for a protracted legal battle. Whether I win or not, is not the issue for me. Either way, I will celebrate the moral victory of fighting against the shameless politicization of frequency allocation. It is unconstitutional and an indication of backward thinking. This is one legal battle that I am looking forward to. I shall not relent in the fight for REAL POSITIVE CHANGE.

God bless Ghana! Culled From Chronicle Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Kwaku Sintim-Misa
Kwaku Sintim-Misa, © 2004

The author has 2 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: KwakuSintimMisa

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