An Accra High Court has injuncted the National Communications Authority (NCA) against shutting down Joy FM and sister station, Asempa FM.
The court granted an application for interlocutory injunction brought by The Multimedia Group, parent company of the two stations, restraining the Authority from curtailing the transmission radius of the stations or closing them down entirely.
The NCA is seeking to limit the coverage radius of the country’s biggest radio stations to 45km from the present 100km. This would mean a reduction by more than half, the reach of many commercial radio stations in the country. Over a dozen radio stations including Citi FM, Peace FM, Starr FM, Hot FM, Fox FM, and Angel FM are affected.
Lawyers for The Multimedia Group argued the directive constituted an arbitrary restriction on the freedom of the media because sections of the population which have come to depend on particular stations as their source of news and other information will no longer be able to receive the stations’ signals if the directive is complied with. This would be a violation of the constitutional rights of millions of Ghanaians and against various other laws regulating the sector.
The Group then dragged the NCA to the High Court seeking among others to quash the directive and prohibit a threatened shut down. It also filed for an interlocutory injunction to stop the NCA from interfering with the range of transmission of its stations.
The two stations had applied to renew their licenses and were granted provisional licences. The NCA then tied the issuance of final licences to the stations reducing their coverage to 45km insisting that is the new regime.
The NCA threatened to shut down Joy and Asempa FMs if they failed to reduce the transmission radius to obtain a final license giving a deadline in May 2018.
Appeals and a petition by the affected radio stations to the NCA and the sector ministry to reconsider the stance failed, compelling the broadcasters to head to court.
Earlier, lawyers for the NCA raised legal objections when the case was called but the court upheld counter-arguments against two of the objections.
The NCA third objection for the removal of the Managing Director Joe Anokye as a party to the suit was, however, granted.
The first objection requesting the court to throw out the aggrieved stations for not quoting their TIN numbers and that of lawyer Samson Lardy Anyenini on the suit, and a second objection challenging the court’s jurisdiction to entertain the case on grounds that the stations should have taken their case to the NCA’s tribunal chaired by a retired Supreme Court Judge were both rejected.
The court, presided over by Justice Georgina Mensah-Datsa, said the tax identification numbers had been supplied and not quoting them was not fatal to the case.
She noted that it was sufficient to have only the NCA as defendant and therefore struck out its head as a party.
The High Court also rejected arguments by lawyers for the NCA alleging a case before the court should rather have been taken to the NCA’s settlements tribunal for determination.
Justice Mensah-Datsa in her ruling noted the High Court had jurisdiction and will hear the case because of the reliefs sought by the aggrieved parties through judicial review application for certiorari, prohibition and mandamus.
Today, in her ruling on the application for injunction the judge said the peculiar nature of the case made the grant of the interim measure necessary.
Hearing into the substantive case commences on 4th December 2018. Joy News has learnt other affected radio stations are filing processes to join the suit.