Suspend TV Licence Fee; It Is A Bad Law II

The suggestion that the activities of GIBA should be funded from the licence is absurd, ludicrous and above all unlawful. It is akin to suggesting that the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI)  and  Ghana Union of Traders ???GUTA, who produce and sell all kinds of goods and services that are bought by Ghanaians, should have the same poor Ghanaian pay for the administration of these bodies.

GIBA is nothing more than an association of private businesses who have decided to invest in broadcasting, not for charity, but as a freely chosen avenue to make some money for them. There is nothing altruistic about their motives, nor indeed any requirement of them to operate as public broadcasters. We, the people, pay to enjoy their services according to our assessment of the value to us, period!.

The last time I checked, there were almost 400 independent radio stations and about 30 TV stations. A major criterion for granting them operating licences is the soundness of their financial operations.  It is the choice of members to establish GIBA to promote their collective interests. It is up to the members to fund their association to the level that they consider appropriate to the achievement of their aims and objectives.

GIBA should not be seeking to benefit from a proposed fee which will actually work against the interests of its members. A fee-funded GBC, which also is allowed to continue to compete for advertising with the independents, will almost certainly use its licence fees to undercut advertising rates which will drive many independents out of business. GIBA should be opposing the licence fee in its present structure, and not allow itself to be ‘bought off’.

Levies

Anyway, the proposition is unlawful and unethical and I am surprised that the representatives of the people did not see through this, and rather endorsed it. If GIBA sees a justification for its collective interest to be served, it should simply levy fees on its members as it’s done by all associations which are formed by free will to protect the peculiar interests of members.

I have always believed that the NMC is very badly under-resourced, which drastically reduces its effectiveness. The dependence on Consolidated Fund is absurd, given that that fund has turned out be just a Public Payroll Fund with very little available for operations and investments.

However, the remedy is not to ask the long-suffering Ghanaian to keep digging into their ever-shrinking pockets. As with most other regulatory bodies around the world, the NMC must seek its funding from those whose activities it regulates, i.e. the newspapers, radio stations, TV stations and all other media of mass communication in Ghana.

At the moment, all of these pay fees to renew their annual operating licences and related activities. Unfortunately, all of the broadcasting component of this money goes to the National Communication Authority ( NCA) which keeps it all to itself, even though the NMC is required to moderate the content produced by the payees to ensure professionalism and decency.Television

The real problem for the NMC is that the NCA has literally used its oversight of frequency allocation and management to assume almost total control of Ghana’s media, and as the collecting agency for broadcasting establishment and operational registration fees, kept all the money to itself, completely ignored the NMC which is supposed to moderate content, the most important component of media for mass communication.

The solution for adequately funding the NMC is to give it a proportion of the fees pocketed entirely by the NCA.  If it is then found that these funds are not adequate for the tasks carried out by the NMC & NCA, the answer will be to review these fees to keep up with growing costs and needs.

Broadcasting law

Mercifully the new broadcasting law is seeking to address the territorial issues between the NMC and the NCA in the management of the media for mass communication. If necessary, the new broadcasting law, whose passage my President has promised for this year, can be tweaked to deal with the issue of equitable sharing of fees and related delineation of powers and operations between the NCA and NMC.

As for the other proposed recipients of the fees, the least said the better. As we have seen already with the so-called Media Fund, there must be no attempt to create a slush fund to be abused by governments in power to disburse to its favourite sons etc. All I will say for now is that we have long passed the days when the state “ nannied” us by creating and flowering institutions whose activities are now better performed by private citizens who continue to unleash their creative talents and energies in the areas of media training and human capacity development.

So there we are; it is my contention that the revamped TV licence law is greatly flawed, and indeed unlawful.  Its major defects need to be corrected and a revamped law presented to the people’s representatives for consideration.

There is, therefore, no justification for carrying out an expensive publicity campaign to launch an illegality. If indeed a revised law has been through Parliament and assented to, I will urge my President to delay the start date of its implementation. Mr President, suspend the tv licence now, it is a bad law.

We have just under  three weeks to stop the unlawful collection of tv fees.  Join the campaign

By: Dr. Charles Wereko-Brobby

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Hashtags across social media: #suspendtvlicence

E-mail: tarzan@eyetarzan.org

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