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Suspend the authorization of Onua TV and Onua FM – NMC writes to NCA

Source The Ghana Report

The National Media Commission (NMC) has written a letter to the National Communications Authority (NCA), requesting the suspension of the authorization of Onua TV and Onua FM over inciteful broadcast.

The NMC in a statement dated November 14, 2023, issued a final warning to Onua TV, Onua FM, and one of the station’s presenters, Captain Smart over the said inciteful broadcast.

The NMC indicated that Onua had carried a broadcast in which Captain Smart directly insulted the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) and other Commanders of the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) by describing them as “beasts.”

Last week, November 24, the NMC in another statement announced that it had extended the final warning after which the commission said it may act without any further reference to Media General, owners of Onua FM and Onua TV.

The extension of the deadline followed a response Onua TV/FM sent to the NMC in a letter dated November 20, 2023.

Captain Smart had claimed that the military officers embezzled monies meant for soldiers on peacekeeping operations but offered no evidence to back his claims, the NMC stated.

All efforts by the NMC to get the stations to withdraw the insults and apologize to the CDS, his commanders, and the Ghanaian public for the use of vulgar language have failed.

Following this, the NMC initiated processes aimed at suspending the frequency authorizations of Onua TV/FM.

A letter dated November 28, 2023, and signed by the Executive Secretary of the NMC, George Sarpong to the NCA said the suspension or revocation of the licenses of the two stations has become imperative because “the two stations have become the soundtrack to hateful rhetoric carefully orchestrated to incite ethnic division, provoke mutiny in the armed forces and prey upon the youth for insurrection against the state.”

According to the NMC, the two stations have “systematically sought to subvert critical national institutions including the Council of State and the Ghana Armed Forces in a manner that constitutes a clear and present danger to the public interest.”

The NMC further added that the imposition of a fine would not be sufficient under the circumstances, hence the decision for the NCA to suspend their operations.

“Article 164 of the Constitution subjects media rights to laws that are reasonably required in the interest of national security and public order among other things. In line with that, section 13(e) of the Electronic Communications Act, 2008, (Act 775) empowers the authority to suspend a frequency authorization where “the suspension or revocation is necessary … in the public interest.

“We also confirm in terms of section 13(f) of the Electronic Communications Act, 2008, (Act 775), that the imposition of a fine will not be sufficient under the circumstances considering the dangerous nature of the content, the persistent defiance of advice, the presenter’s unprofessional practice, management’s incapacity in implementing regulatory rules and the Board’s nonchalance in supervising the stations,” the statement added.

Meanwhile, the management of Onua TV and Onua FM have sued NMC for alleged harassment.

Read the full notice from the NMC to the NCA below:

The Director General

National Communications Authority

Accra

November 28, 2023

Dear Sir,

NOTICE OF SUSPENSION OF AUTHORISATION: ONUA TV & ONUA FM

We write with reference to our Memorandum of Cooperation adopted pursuant to section 3(d) of the National Communications Authority Act, 2008 (Act 769) to notify you of the need to suspend the authorization of Onua TV and Onua Fm.

The two stations have become the soundtrack to hateful rhetoric carefully orchestrated to incite ethnic division, provoke mutiny in the armed forces, and prey upon the youth for insurrection against the state.

They have systematically sought to subvert critical national institutions including the Council of State and the Ghana Armed Forces in a manner that constitutes a clear and present danger to the public interest.

In one instance, they expressed the wish to have the Chairman of the Council of State killed. The Chairman, Nana Otuo Serebour, is the Omanhene of Juaben and President of the Juaben Traditional Council in Ashanti with subjects across the entire nation. Beyond the natural disgust of the stations’ wish, the public order implications of wishing a traditional ruler dead are obvious.

In another instance, the stations through the same presenter insulted the Chiefs and people of the Wiawso Traditional Area forcing them to hold a durbar to perform traditional rituals to declare him persona non grata in their community.

In yet another broadcast, he insulted the Western Regional Minister as a person without sense who acts like an “Esrem politician.” Esrem is the twi reference for the Northern, Savannah, North East, Upper West, and Upper East Regions. Such stereotyping and tribal bigotry if unchecked will ultimately lead to ethnic conflict, undermine national cohesion, and destabilize the state.

More recently, the stations sought to instigate the Ghana Armed Forces against the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and other Commanders. The stations called the CDS and his Commanders “beasts” and alleged they embezzled monies meant for peacekeepers. They offered no evidence for the claims. The attacks on the military commanders come in the wake of coup d’etats and mutinies in Niger, Burkina Faso, Sudan, Guinea, Gabon and twice in Mali. Currently, there is disquiet in Sierra Leone after gunmen attacked a military barracks. The specific attacks on the CDS and his commanders are reminiscent of the January 1994 broadcast of Rwandan radio attacks on the UNAMIR Commander Romeo Dallaire as part of the genocide playbook.

Attempts at Correction

Many attempts have been made to correct the stations and to prevent them from their harmful broadcast. All has been to no avail.

When they attacked the Council of State, the Council magnanimously invited them together with NMC and other stakeholders to a discussion. At that forum, the representative of the stations’ management promised to ensure they complied with professional requirements in broadcasting. They reneged on this promise and continued with their dangerous broadcast.

When they called for an insurrection against the state, the NMC warned them and asked them to retract the broadcast and apologize to the people of Ghana. They ignored the warning and refused to apologize. The management of the stations wrote to NMC in which they expressed no objection to the behavior and rather questioned the legality of NMC’s regulatory action. The Commission then stepped up the complaint to the Board of Directors of the stations. The board found nothing wrong with the behavior of the stations.

In the recent broadcast in which they sought to incite mutiny in the Ghana Armed Forces, the Commission once again wrote to the Board giving them seven days to get the stations to apologize and retract the broadcast. Once again, the Board refused to get the stations to retract their broadcasts. At the end of the seven days, the Commission extended the time for another seven days. At the expiration of the second seven days making a total of 14 days, the station has refused to apologise.

It is therefore clear that the dangerous broadcast is deliberate and is sanctioned by the management and board. This means we cannot rely on the station to change its ways unless regulatory intervention is applied. It is upon this basis that we issue this notice.

Regulatory impact

The suspension of the authorization of the two stations will not impact the broadcasting industry in any negative way. Ghana is recognized globally as one of the best nations with diverse and plural media. Ghana’s per capita radio and television access is far higher than most democracies in the world. Indeed, some industry analysts argue, debatably, that the broadcasting market is saturated. This means the deliberate decision by 2 stations to withdraw from broadcast by their unprofessional and dangerous practice, will not affect citizens in any way.

Legal basis

Article 164 of the Constitution subjects media rights to laws that are reasonably required in the interest of national security and public order among other things. In line with that, section 13(e) of the Electronic Communications Act, 2008, (Act 775) empowers the authority to suspend a frequency authorization where “the suspension or revocation is necessary … in the public interest.”

We also confirm in terms of section 13(f) of the Electronic Communications Act, 2008, (Act 775), that the imposition of a fine will not be sufficient under the circumstances considering the dangerous nature of the content, the persistent defiance of advice, the presenter’s unprofessional practice, management’s incapacity in implementing regulatory rules and the Board’s nonchalance in supervising the stations.

As regulators, we cannot wait anymore for the worst to happen.

Yours faithfully

George Sarpong

Executive Secretary

Click here to read the statement by the NMC

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