Ursula Owusu Ekuful
The government has dismissed arguments by the Minority National Democratic Congress (NDC) in Parliament that it does not have the authority to ask the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC), the nation’s state broadcaster, to reduce its channels from six to three.
The Minister of Communications, Ursula Owusu Ekuful, in a letter dated June 26, directed the GBC to reduce its channels from six to three because of the huge expenses by government to cover the cost of operations of all those channels following GBC’s migration onto the National Digital Terrestrial Television platform.
The minister gave the corporation 60 days to effect that change by consolidating programming in line with the directive.
According to the minister, government has been covering the cost of GBC’s channels on the platform so far but “that process is unsustainable.”
“If we are going to hand that cost completely to the broadcasting channels at this time when there is a general business slowdown, we will have a problem because on the basis of the figures I have seen, you will be unable to pay for the cost of hosting the platform,” the minister said in response to the Minority’s call over the directive to the GBC to reduce its channels.
The minister further explained that the DTT platform currently had limited capacity of 40 channels which had already been used.
She said the government’s intention to expand the capacity on the network had been delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic, stressing that the government does not want any redundancy on the platform.
“There would be more spectrums available after the completion of the DTT process,” the minister said and explained that she was well within her rights to take the decision aimed at freeing up space and reducing for maintenance of the DTT platform.
“The fact still remains that the sole multi-channel through which broadcasting can be transmitted in this country for now is full to capacity; there is absolutely no redundancy on it. For us as a country, it is dangerous to be in this situation,” she said.
“Pending the acquisition of an additional multiplex which will provide for more capacity on that and it has absolutely nothing to do with spectrum…it is the multiplex which has capacity challenges and not spectrum and until such time as we acquire an additional multiplex to provide channels for broadcasting in this country, we have no other means of doing so and so a responsible ministry in a responsible government has taken the only means available to it at this time to sit with those who have excess capacity on that multiplex to cede some of it for the security of our own state,” she added.
The Minority had argued that the government does not have the power to order the GBC to reduce its channels after getting migrated onto the DTT platform.
The NDC MP for Ningo-Prampram, Sam George, who is a member of the Communications Committee of Parliament, said the government’s directive was “unlawful” because the Communications Ministry did not have the remit to take such a decision.
He said the Minority was fundamentally against any attempt to cut the reach and scope of GBC’s work.
The Ningo-Prampram MP said the National Media Commission (NMC) could also direct the GBC to disregard the letter from the minister since she is not “clothed” with that power, adding that “if the Minister for Communication legally does not have the mandate to make such a demand of GBC, then this whole conversation is moot. An illegality is an illegality.”
Currently, GBC runs GTV Sports+, GTV, GBC 24 and GTV Life (religion and culture channel), GTV Govern (a governance channel) and Obonu TV.
By Thomas Fosu Jnr