Before I talk about the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) matters, I will implore readers to indulge me for a minute for digressing even before I could get started. Is it fair to this nation that the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, or any Ministry, for that matter, will have to wait on an absentee Minister for upwards of one year?
Now to GBC matters.
Remember the brouhaha that led to the dismissal of the state broadcaster’s Director-General, Dr Kwame Akuffo Anoff-Ntow, in 2018? I have read nearly everything (except secret documents) on the issue and I urge every Ghanaian to do so. When you do, you’d agree with me that the decision to fire the DG does not make sense one bit.
Reversing the judicial intervention of the then Chief Justice is the one board decision that has kept GBC on its knees, resulting, among others, in a special the National Media Commission (NMC) appeal to the President to help the corporation pay its electricity bills!!!
Early in 2018, Ghanaians were informed that Chief Justice Sophia Akuffo had set up a special TV Licence Court to deal with non-payment of the mandatory TV licences.
The courts, numbering 11, were located across all the country’s ten regions and were to sit every Thursday with effect from January 4, 2018, until otherwise directed.
GBC officially reintroduced the collection of the TV Licence fees in 2015 after years of putting it on hold due to non-payments.
While domestic TV users were to pay between GH¢36 and GH¢60 for one or more TV sets in the same house every year, TV set repairers and sales outlets were to pay an annual sum of between $60 to $240.
A letter from the Office of the Chief Justice said the setting up of the special TV Licence Courts was a request from the Director General on November 6, 2017.
This led to the dismissal of the DG. In a letter dated January 15, 2018, the governing board of the state broadcasting said: “there was no authorization by this Board or the previous Board to invoke any processes for the prosecution of defaulters”.
The then Information Minister Mustapha Hamid accused Dr Akuffo Anoff-Ntow of not seeking authorisation “before embarking on such a major policy intervention that has far-reaching implications”.
Yours Truly wondered, and still wonders, which “far-reaching implications” there were. Which tax in the world is not backed by law? What does it mean that the DG was not authorized to invoke the law on prosecuting offenders?
As far back as 56 years ago to the date, of the board decision, the TV Licensing Act 1966 (NLCD 89) as amended, had indicated that “Any person who contravenes any provision of this law or regulation shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year.”
Did GBC intend to collect the TV licence outside this law? So what was so wrong with the Chief Justice setting up a special TV Licence Court to deal with offenders? GBC’s own records show the difference in the alacrity with which Ghanaians responded to the call for payment before and after the Chief Justice’s announcement?
The board mentioned that there was a public outcry. I ask: which law enforcing the payment of any tax in the world has not attracted an outcry?
Meanwhile, GBC is bleeding itself white with debts. The corporation owes ECG over unpaid electricity bills to the tune of ¢20 million. It is so indebted to its retired staff that a number of them have secured a court order garnisheeing some of its accounts till they are paid arrears of their long service award.
On the corporation’s shopping list are critically needed essential tools and equipment. It needs ¢21million to do the shopping. The newest buses at Broadcasting House were procured in the time of Eva Lokko around 2003!
Meanwhile, the TV licence was expected to generate ¢600 million a year from ¢36 per year per set.
The effect of the anti-TV licence campaign embarked on by GBC is that now only hotels and a few elder statesmen walk in to pay.
Why? Because one governing board acted in haste.
I go to GBC almost every week, with eyes as wide open as spectacles. And I see things. I can report that the current DG straining sinews and nerves with his management team. He is doing his mighty best, but with such a load of debts and very little inflows, even the best management supremos conclude know that he has been set up to fail. It will take a very lucky magician to make GBC attractive without revenues from TV licence – or bigger government subventions.
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