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George Sarpong, Executive Secretary of National Media Commission (NMC)
George Sarpong, Executive Secretary of National Media Commission (NMC)

NMC to GIBA: Notice to suspend broadcasting authorisations of Onua TV/FM stands

The National Media Commission (NMC) has reacted to the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association's (GIBA) concerns in relation to the notice by the NMC on measures, it was taking to suspend the operations of Onua FM and Onua TV, following what the commission describes as "persistently dangerous broadcast" by the two media houses, owned by Media General.

In a press statement dated December 1, 2023, signed by the Executive Secretary, George Sarpong, the NMC indicated that the notice of suspension still stands.

The NMC indicated to GIBA, Onua FM and Onua TV "invited this upon themselves, please note that your [GIBA] press statement is of no consequence to the process. We wrote to you [GIBA] out of courtesy so if it is your wish that we do not grant you that courtesy in future, we respect that."

GIBA in a press statement had said the NMC was not giving Onua FM and Onua TV a fair hearing.

But in responding to GIBA, the NMC advised GIBA not to attempt to dictate to it on how it should handle it's constitutional duties.

"Regarding how we deal with other organisations including the Advertising Association of Ghana, the ordinary rules of etiquette would require you not to attempt to dictate to us," NMC told GIBA and said there was a difference between imposing sanctions without giving a hearing and serving notice to impose sanctions.

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What has happened?

The National Media Commission (NMC) has initiated processes aimed at suspending the frequency authorisations of Onua TV and Onua FM.

The move according to the NMC is following "persistently dangerous broadcast" by Onua TV and Onua FM.

Related: NMC issues final warning to Onua FM/TV and Captain Smart over inciteful broadcast

The NMC has written to some institutional partners, including the Advertisers Association of Ghana (AAG), GIBA and others serving notice of the processes it has initiated towards the suspension of the frequency of Onua TV and Onua FM.

A similar letter has been sent to the National Communications Authority (NCA) as a form of notice on why the frequency authorisations of the two media houses should be suspended. 

"We believe our intervention to save the nation may have implications for your members and their clients who deal with the two stations. We therefore deem it necessary to inform you of our action to enable you advise the advertising community accordingly," the letter to the AAG for instance stated.

Background

The NMC in a statement dated November 14, 2023 issued a final warning to Onua FM, Onua TV 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.”

On 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 FM/TV sent to the NMC in a letter dated November 20, 2023, 

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

"This was as dangerous as it was unprofessional," the commission added indicating that Captain Smart was inciting a mutiny in the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF).

The commission in its letter made reference to a similar incident in 2022 where in a letter dated December 8, 2022, it drew the attention of Onua TV/FM to the use of the station to promote violence against the state and the management’s lack of capacity to address same. 

The NMC said it was of concern that the behaviour persists after attention was drawn to it and the management was not instituting any measures for any internal gatekeeping to help prevent re-occurence.

In the meantime, Media General, the management of Onua FM and Onua TV has sued the National Media Commission and says they will not be cowered by politically tainted harassments.

Media General is seeking an order for perpetual injunction restraining the NMC from taking any steps that adversely seek to impact on the media operations of the company and its associates.

The media house is also asking the court to among other things declare that some orders issued by the Commission to Onua TV and Onua FM are unlawful and that the conduct of the NMC in refusing to give the stations an opportunity to be heard before imposing sanctions on them is a breach of the law and of natural justice.

No sanctions on two media houses yet - NMC

On the issue of sanctions without hearing, the NMC has explained that it has only issued a notice and that it has not imposed any sanctions yet.

"We also wish to provide you information that the claim in your press statement that the Commission acted without “giving the opportunity for fair hearing to the stations rather than pronouncing sanctions upon them” has no foundation," the NMC said. 

"NMC has not issued any “sanctions” on the two offending stations yet. 

"What we have done is to file a notice of suspension. We did that after issuing them warnings to desist from their professional delinquency. Neither the “cease and desist” orders nor the notice of suspension constitutes sanctions. 

"A “cease and desist” order only warns a criminal, wrong doer or a delinquent professional to stop their misbehaviour and to withdraw from their lawlessness.  It does not constitute “sanctions.” It is akin to asking a pickpocket to stop stealing or to stop a person poisoning the public well to stop his murderous act. It does not involve any “hearing.”

“Opportunity for fair hearing” comes in when the criminal ignores the warning and puts himself in harm’s way with the law. It is at that point that the wrong doer, faced with the law, is given “opportunity for fair hearing.” 

"We have initiated a process. We assure you that the errant stations may have their “opportunity for fair hearing” at the right time in the appropriate forum," the commission added. 

Attached below is the NMC's December 1, 2023 statement reacting to GIBA

GIBA PRESS STATEMENT OF NOVEMBER 30, 2023

We write with reference to your press statement issued on Thursday, November 30, 2023 regarding the Commission’s intervention to grant Onua TV and Onua Fm their wish to exit the broadcasting market by unprofessional practice. 

Our notice of suspension stands. 

To the extent that the stations invited this upon themselves, please note that your press statement is of no consequence to the process. We wrote to you out of courtesy so if it is your wish that we do not grant you that courtesy in future, we respect that.

Regarding how we deal with other organisations including the Advertising Association of Ghana, the ordinary rules of etiquette would require you not to attempt to dictate to us. 

We also wish to provide you information that the claim in your press statement that the Commission acted without “giving the opportunity for fair hearing to the stations rather than pronouncing sanctions upon them” has no foundation. 

NMC has not issued any “sanctions” on the two offending stations yet. 

What we have done is to file a notice of suspension. We did that after issuing them warnings to desist from their professional delinquency. Neither the “cease and desist” orders nor the notice of suspension constitutes sanctions. 

A “cease and desist” order only warns a criminal, wrong doer or a delinquent professional to stop their misbehaviour and to withdraw from their lawlessness.  It does not constitute “sanctions.” It is akin to asking a pickpocket to stop stealing or to stop a person poisoning the public well to stop his murderous act. It does not involve any “hearing.”

“Opportunity for fair hearing” comes in when the criminal ignores the warning and puts himself in harm’s way with the law. It is at that point that the wrong doer, faced with the law, is given “opportunity for fair hearing.” 

We have initiated a process. We assure you that the errant stations may have their “opportunity for fair hearing” at the right time in the appropriate forum. 

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