An attempt by the Ministry of Communications to reduce the channels operated by the state broadcaster, Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC), has been met with fierce resistance.
While the Board of GBC has vowed not to allow any of its six channels on the Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) platform to be taken away, the Minority in Parliament disputes the reason for the move, suspecting the Ministry of an ulterior motive linked to a previous botched attempt to privatize the organisation.
In a letter to the Director-General of GBC, the Minister of Communications, Mrs Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, gave notice of the Ministry’s intention to take away three of the six channels of GBC to among other objectives, ensure efficiency and cost effectiveness in the management of the spectrum.
The reduction, according to the letter, “is to ensure that there is redundancy on the national DTT platform which is currently operating at full capacity,” adding that the relieved channels would be allocated to the government and national security to communicate information on urgent national matters.
But the Minority spokesperson on Communications, Sam George contends that the move unacceptable explaining that the Communications Ministry had no mandate over GBC which is under the Ministry of Information.
In addition, there is no need to reduce the number of channels being operated by the state broadcaster, indicating the task of communicating national matters was being performed by GBC as part of its mandate.
According to him, the Ministry should have completed the migration from analogue to digital in 2017 which would have given enough space to the government and national security as indicated by the Minister.
“When they complete the digital switch over, we are going to have a lot of white spaces which is additional spectrum for government to use,” he said, adding that moving to close three channels of GBC is “a lazy approach” of getting spectrum.
The GBC in its complaint to the National Media Commission, says it cannot half its channels of broadcasting from six to three on the National DTT platform as directed by the Communications Minister.
In a letter to the Commission, Director-General of the state broadcaster, Prof. Amin Alhassan said all six channels serve specific purposes, therefore, none can be taken off.
Giving a breakdown of their uses, Prof Alhassan said all six channels are dedicated 24-hours channels with “specified focus reflecting the mandate of GBC as a State Broadcaster, a Public Service Broadcaster and a Commercial Broadcaster.”
“It virtually means that GBC will have to reduce its operations by half. This request will also impose serious budgetary and human resource challenges on the operations of GBC and indeed, can collapse the Public Service Broadcaster.
In view of this, GBC is “unable to respond to the request of the Hon. Minister of Communication,” the letter indicated.
GBC currently operates GTV, GBC News, GTV Sports+, GBC Obonu, GTV Life and Ghana Learning TV.
Prof Alhassan added that GBC Board expects the NMC to intervene to save the State Broadcaster from the consequences of having to operate with only three channels.
Meanwhile the Media Foundation for West Africa has taken a swipe at the Communication Minister for writing directly to GBC without going through the appropriate agencies, mainly the Ministry of Information and the National Media Commission.
Describing the move by the Ministry as illegal and untenable, the Executive Director of the Foundation, Suleimana Braimah says the Ministry also did not have the authority to issue a sixty-day ultimatum to the GBC to release its channels, as it was not a court of law.
In July last year, the staff of GBC held a series of demonstrations against the government for an attempt to sell a number of its channels to some private investors.
By ADR Daily Newsdesk