Bimbila based Gmantanbu 96. 1MHz, a powerful radio station serving several under-reported districts in the eastern corridor enclave of the Northern Region, has been shut down temporarily on Friday, February 22, 2019.
The closure followed a fistfight which broke out at the Municipal Assembly building between managers of the radio station and some assemblymen, who have petitioned the National Communication Authority (NCA) to investigate the station for frequency authorization breach.
Four persons were restrained and detained by the police during the confrontation between the two parties after a meeting called by Municipal Chief Executive, Abdulai Yaqoo, following the renewed standoff.
Since 2013, there has been a longstanding feud between four assemblymen and managers of the radio station after a misunderstanding over airtime charges.
The petitioners accused the managers of operating with an illegal frequency authorization and running the station as their private property.
The petitioners include that, the radio station which has a community-based radio frequency is operating as commercial radio and controlled by private individuals.
The NCA defines commercial radio stations as those that are privately owned and operated for profit and controlled privately by independent commercial groups or individuals and categorizes community radio stations as a non-profit broadcasting service provided for a specific marginalised community by a radio or television station whose ownership and management are representative of the community for which the service is provided.
The MCE who confirmed the incident to Starr News said the parties were invited to discuss a letter from the NCA directing managers of Gmantanbu radio to reconstitute a new board in line with the station status as community radio.
“Last month or so, there was a letter from the NCA – following the petition, directing the managers of Gmantanbu radio to reconstitute their board based on a community radio station status; because per the correspondence I received from NCA, the frequency is a community radio station. And the petitioners are saying that, if it’s a community radio, the Board (of Gmantanbu radio)is not constituted based on the guidelines of a community and the charges that they charge, per their airtime and another issue, is not that of a community radio station but that of a commercial radio station,” the MCE explained.
He continued: “When the letter came, the managers of the station said they doubted the authenticity of the letter so we met to deliberate on the issue. Both parties were still having their entrenched positions, nothing changed from the previous meeting we held. So we finished and they left, unfortunately, when they left my office, we heard that they engaged themselves in physical assaults.
“The police have to arrest them and lock them up. So there was tension in Bimbila- You know we already have chieftaincy problem- so some people were agitating to go and burn down the radio station, so we had to hold an emergency MUSEC meeting and decided that the managers should close down a bit while we refer the matter to the NCA to come and resolve it.”
The MCE said the four persons have been released but the radio station remains shut until a final determination by the NCA.
“I have written officially to the Chief Executive of the NCA to come down and help us to resolve this particular problem,” Yaqoob told Starr News.
Gmantanbu radio has a wider coverage area. It has strong signals in Saboba, Tatale, Zabzugu, Wulensi, Kpandai, parts of Yendi and Oti Region. It was established as a community radio station but now allegedly been commercially managed by a brother of the immediate past MCE of the area.
It is one of the popular local radio stations with more than half a million direct beneficiaries, reaching almost every hamlet in the eastern corridor area of a region heavily suppressed by a media censorship. It also serves as an affiliate to Citi FM in Accra broadcasting English news to thousands of people in the hard to reach areas.