The decision that Ghanaian television viewers will not have to pay to watch their favourite, non-coded traditional TV stations is, perhaps, the most welcome news of the New Year.
The Media commends the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA) for insisting on the right things to be done regarding the attempt by the National Communications Authority (NCA) and/or the Ministry of Communications to deny Ghanaians the right to freedom of information.
The GIBA recently expressed strong reservations about a technical standard on Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) and Direct-To-Home (DTH) published on the website of the National Communications Authority.
Somewhere last year, in the middle of 2019, the Communications Ministry proposed a “conditional access” TV broadcast regime. It was seeking a mandatory encryption of “free-to-air” television broadcast, for the purpose of collecting TV license fees.
Had the Ministry’s “conditional access system” (CAS) proposal been allowed, free-to-air television access will literally be no more, contrary to the Constitution of Ghana. That would have meant a viewer cannot access TV stations or TV media content for free, except to pay for it through the use of a decoder.
In short, many ordinary persons’ access to the traditional TV stations, which offer “free-to- air” broadcast services, will have been foreclosed. This unconstitutional blocking of some TV content would mean a reduction in the number of people who can access “free-to-air” TV. To date, these broadcast services that do not encrypt TV content, include the GTV, TV3, TV Africa, Metro TV, Crystal TV, JOY News, to mention but a few.
However, a week before Christmas, on December 17, 2018, the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA) ruled the Communications Ministry out of order! It declared that the Ministry’s intention to make an otherwise free access to television broadcasting that has about 99% of TV households relying exclusively on it, turned into a conditional access Pay TV service in Ghana payable, was unacceptable.
The media space is relieved that an un-necessary constitutional litigation has been headed off. It is to be noted that radio frequencies circulate freely around the globe, carrying television, radio, aviation, naval and security/intelligence signals. Known technically as electro-magnetic waves, radio frequencies are a natural resource, gifted or bestowed by God on humankind.
Because electro-magnetic waves are also limited natural resources, the National Communications Authority has been set up to regulate (NOT to LICENSE) the use of radio frequencies. And the National Media Commission, per Chapter 12 of the 1992 Constitution is clothed with constitutional powers to ensure “free and independent media” operation in Ghana and individual rights to information.
We shudder to imagine what would have happened to the Ghanaian electorate this election year, who otherwise will have been denied normal access to television campaign messages, except through paid decoders. Free-to-air receivers of certain television content will have been a thing of the past. Really? Universal “Pay TV” for Ghana?
It must now be patently obvious that between the National Media Commission and the governmental National Communications Authority, the National Media Commission is better trusted with protecting the electro-magnetic waves, free and independent media and individual rights to information.
Accordingly, The Catholic Standard urges the National Media Commission to intensify its legitimate fight to have the mass media portion of the electromagnetic waves (broadcast frequencies spectrum) ceded to its authority and management. The discerning public will surely be on its side.
For now we are very pleased that, at least, some of our State institutions such as the Ghana Standards Authority are baring their teeth for the common good of Ghanaians.
We call on Ghanaians to wake-up otherwise they may come to the realisation sooner than later that they have given away some of their constitutional rights.
Source: Catholic Standard