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Akufo-Addo directs Ursula to suspend GBC DTT directive

The order by the Communications Minister, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, to the state broadcaster has been met with resistance and some media stakeholders have called for its suspension

President Akufo-Addo has directed the Minister of Communications, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, to suspend implementation of directives she gave to the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation regarding the reduction of GBC’s channels on the digital terrestrial television (DTT) platform, pending further consultation with stakeholders.

The directive from the minister was contained in a letter, dated 29 June 2020, addressed to the director general of the GBC. The letter demanded that three of GBCs six channels be closed within 60 days, and attributed the order to a need to ease congestion on the DTT platform.

The directive has met with resistance among stakeholders in the media industry.

Akufo-Addo's directive to the Communications Minister

Following the minister’s directive, Amin Alhassan, director general of the GBC, argued that all six channels serve a specific purpose and thus none can be taken off.

In a letter to the National Media Commission (NMC), Professor Alhassan explained that all six channels were dedicated to 24-hour broadcasting, with “specified focus reflecting the mandate of GBC as a state broadcaster, a public service broadcaster and a commercial broadcaster”.

NMC’s reaction

The National Media Commission says that moves by the Ministry of Communications to reduce the number of channels that GBC, the state broadcaster, and Crystal TV run on the national DTT platform is outside the ministry’s remit and a usurpation of the Commission’s powers.

The NMC argues that the Ghanaian constitution mandates the Commission to perform the fundamental function “to promote and ensure the freedom and independence of the media for mass communication or information” and also to “insulate the state-owned media from governmental control”.

In a statement dated 22 July the chairman of the NMC, Yaw Boadu-Ayeboafoh, emphasised that any development which seeks to deprive the media of use of resources legally allocated to them compromises their capacity to serve Ghana.

The management of Crystal TV earlier mounted a defence, saying such a move would “destroy jobs and exacerbate the unemployment challenges in the country”.

Freedoms guaranteed

The Commission has determined that “the directive given to GBC and Crystal TV by the Minister for Communications purports to usurp the constitutional mandate and authority of the National Media Commission and same cannot be obliged under our current constitutional dispensation”.

The NMC said the DTT platform is an essential part of broadcasting and should be “treated as media to enable it to benefit from all the freedoms guaranteed the media by the 1992 constitution”.

This follows an emergency meeting held by the NMC to consider issues relating to the directives given by the Ministry of Communications to GBC and Crystal TV over their broadcasting channels on the DTT platform.

Digital terrestrial television (DTTV or DTT) is a technology for terrestrial television in which land-based (terrestrial) television stations broadcast content by radio waves to televisions in consumers’ residences in a digital format.

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