The Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) and its many outlets across the country risk going off-air if the company’s indebtedness to the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) is not paid immediately.
The Chairman of the National Media Commission (NMC), Mr Yaw Boadu-Ayeboafoh, at a meeting with President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, on Wednesday [November 6, 2019] said the GH¢25 million debt owed the ECG by GBC had dire consequence also for National Security Council if not paid promptly.
He said his outfit had already initiated the processes to make GBC a public service broadcaster by setting up a committee to work with the Ministry of Information to look at how to restructure GBC and make it the public service. He, however, indicated that lack of funding was dragging the process and therefore appealed to President Akufo-Addo to help address the problem.
Mr Boadu-Ayeboafoh also expressed concerns about the Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) system about to be introduced by the Ministry of Communications. According to him, the understanding of the commission was that once the DTT is a media facility to be owned by the state, the Commission considered that as a state owned media so the NMC must be involved.
“We have made efforts but it has not been easy getting the Ministry of Communications to appreciate our point of view;” he said and called for support and cooperation because at the heart of the DTT is the question of enhancing the freedom and independence of the media.
The NMC chairman also called for some dialogue and collaboration to work modalities to streamline the State Interest and Governance Authority Law (SIGAL) since there may be the need for an amendment for the law. The Chairman of the NMC, Mr Yaw Boadu Ayeboah who led the NMC delegation called for support and the cooperation of all since the mandate of the NMC to ensure the freedom and responsibility of the media was a huge one.
President Akufo-Addo’s response
On the indebtedness of the GBC to the ECG, President Akufo-Addo directed the Minister of Information, Mr Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, to treat the issue as an urgent one to help bring an amicable resolution.
He asked Mr Oppong Nkrumah to see how best to deal with the payment of the huge electricity bill of the GBC as well as the accommodation and funding concerns of the NMC and said the Media Commission like all other constitutional bodies had come to stay and so the sooner they are settled in a satisfactory way to do their work the better it will be for the growth of the country and its democracy.
The President, who has been meeting organised bodies, took the opportunity to advise the media to be balanced and fair. President Akufo-Addo further called for a clear balance between media freedom and responsibility.
He charged the NMC to as much as possible find a means to strike a balance between the freedom as well as the responsibility of the media in the country. While admitting that the task was a very big challenge for the Commission, President Akufo-Addo also noted that there were occasions when the media was used for irresponsible purposes and therefore it was important the NMC did what it could to strike that balance between responsibility and freedom of the media and make it operational.
He acknowledged that the freedom of the media was an absolutely essential tool for governance which allowed the diversity of opinion to be expressed about matters and that no one should wish for monotony or one-sided replication of views. “I know that you will be concerned about the means to have this balance addressed but then we know from empirical evidence and historical examples of how media itself can be an instrument of destabilization of societies.
That cannot be something that any of us will willingly wish for Ghana because a great deal of Ghana’s present capital and heritage is derived from the image the country has projected as a free, open and a stable democracy especially in the area of the world where there is a lot of turbulence and upheavals but we continue to toe the line of democratic engagement” the President stated.
Recounting some experiences in the past where there was only one voice which was radio Ghana and where the newspapers only admitted one point of view, President Akufo-Addo said that system did not serve the interest of the state. He was, however, happy about the present diverse and vigorous media landscape which expressed all the various perspectives about the country and indicated that the existing system was good for the health of our country.
A responsible media therefore he added must be “one that checks its facts and attempts as much as possible to portray situations as they are, and not to be a media that is inventing things to serve very short term parochial interests.”
Public service broadcaster
Touching on efforts to ensure that Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) becomes a public service broadcaster, the President said “I find it an anomaly that in a democracy and a multi-party state you have the concept of state media because the possibility of that media being an instrument for party propaganda in a multi party-state is very strong and we have seen it happen here to the extent that you are concerned about having a proper definition of that role.”
He said the process to review the role of GBC are well placed and every effort should be made to assist the NMC to proceed with the review. To that end, he said, there would be a public service broadcaster and not a state-owned media serving the aspirations, desires and wishes of those who control the state at any one time adding that there would also be a body, independent of the government of the day providing balanced, impartial, professional information to the public.
He said if Ghana could have a system like that of the BBC for instance where the media organisation is owned by the state but operating as a public service broadcaster where no government of the day could be deciding its thinking and personnel, it will be a progressive step.