Minister for Communications Mrs Ursula Owusu-Ekuful and the Member of Parliament for Ningo-Prampram Samuel Nartey George have clashed in Parliament over a government directive to Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) to surrender three of its channels on the DTT platform.
The directive was described as illegal by the Minority member in view of the fact that the state broadcaster does not lie under the purview of the Minister of Communications.
However, in an interview in Parliament on Wednesday, the Communications Minister accused the Minority of inciting public passions against the government on the matter.
She indicated there is a fundamental difference between channels and the spectrum hosted on the DTT platform and stressed they are not the same.
The DDT platform, she explained, has capacity for 40 channels, which has been used up and indicated the government has been bearing the cost of hosting the channels on the DTT platform and the spectrum cost and the cost of operating and maintaining the system for the past three years.
“That process is not sustainable but we cannot transfer that cost to the broadcasting channels at this time of a general business slow down and when the survival of some broadcasting agencies are in doubt because of the pandemic.
“None of your stations would be able to pay for the cost of the platform from day one. If the switch-over starts you would be compelled to pay for being hosted on the platform and the era for being hosted for free would be over”, she added.
Mrs. Owusu-Ekuful aimed a low blow at Sam George, who had suggested the directive was intended to acquire a television station for Asaase Media Empire, which belongs to the family of President Akufo-Addo.
According to her, she does not know of any application by Asaase Radio for a television channel pending before the National Communications Authority (NCA).
“What I am aware of is there is a huge backlog of applications spanning from 2017 when the NPP took over.”
“But we are faced with a pandemic, which makes it difficult to complete the switch-over process because of the cost implications on broadcasters.”
“So the discussions are what do we do to free up excess capacity. If the state has need now of broadcasting urgent communication to the public it does not have any means of doing so.”
“If National Security has need of broadcasting urgent communication to the citizenry it has no means of doing so,” she said.
She argued it is critical at this juncture to be faced with a process in which the capacity of the only platform for broadcasting to the populace has been exhausted completely.
And stressed it, therefore, makes sense without reading any ulterior motives into it to work to create additional capacity in the event it is needed.
The Ministry, she said, had a meeting with GTV and Crystal TV, the two broadcasters with multiple channels on the DTT platform, which is hosted by the government free of charge to get them to consolidate their programming on fewer channels in order to free up capacity.
“How can that be akin to a dictatorship, silencing the media, and draconian leadership?”
“It is becoming the penchant of the NDC to throw alarmist communications out there.”
“How can this be killing the public service broadcaster when we are working closely with the sector minister to endure they deliver their work in a more efficient manner with cost savings to them?”
“How could this be akin to promoting job losses,” she questioned?
The Communications Minister averred that had the minority approached her ministry for an explanation, it would have been given willingly to settle the matter and stressed Sam George’s action was evidence of premature ejaculation by the minority.