NEWS COMMENTARY ADVOCATES THE NEED FOR INCREASED STATE SUPPORT FOR THE PUBLIC SERVICE BROADCASTER, GBC TO LIVE UP TO ITS MANDATE.
During the Appropriation Sitting in Parliament for the Ministry of Information’s 2021 budgetary allocation, the Minister of Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, made a strong case for the Public Service Broadcasting mandate of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC), to be duly recognised and adequately resourced. Moving for the allocation of ¢125,976,177 to his Ministry, ¢64,446,996 of which went to GBC, Hon. Oppong Nkrumah reiterated Government’s commitment to make GBC viable. This advocacy for relevant State support of the indispensable information dissemination activities of the State Broadcaster at governmental level acknowledges the vital role GBC plays in national integration and cohesion through communication.
This role of keeping citizens informed about governmental policies and programmes and their rights and obligations in helping to achieve them is highlighted by literacy level and language distribution of Ghana. Though the latest national literacy rate is put at 79.04%, most Ghanaians are only able to express themselves or access information in one or two of the 56 local languages spoken in Ghana. This is where the important public service role of GBC comes to bear. Because, while some stakeholders are determined to access the output of GBC in relation to other broadcasting institutions, especially the private channels, GBC operates 19 FM stations nationwide, reaching the majority of Ghanaians in 24 of the local languages of Ghana.
This is how important national broadcast programmes like the annual State of the Nation Address by the President, live coverage of the Independence Day parades wherever they are held in the country, Presentation of the Budget Statement and Economic Policy of Government and twice in the evolution of our democracy celebrated widely, live coverage of the Election Petition Hearing from the Supreme Court. For the Election Petition hearing, GBC had to engage the services of an intermediary Satellite transmission company at very prohibitive cost. From coverage of the recent 2020 Election petition hearing, ¢400,000 has been added to the legacy debt of ¢88 million on GBC’s books. This transmission deficiency has been highlighted by the urgent need of Outside Broadcasting Vans for GBC since the two available now are either outmoded or broken down.
For lovers of football, which is the passion of the nation, broadcasting any FIFA level game requires the use of HD quality OB Vans which GBC has to rent at between $16,000 and $25,000 per day from either Star Times or from other institutions that can provide them on the spur of the moment. Currently, GBC OB Vans are SD or analogue.
Adding his voice to the Minister of Information’s call for GBC to be adequately resourced, the Ranking Member of the Parliamentary Committee on Communications and Information, A.B.A. Fuseini, highlighted the need to retool GBC to efficiently discharge its entrusted public service broadcasting responsibility. This responsibility, as contained in the GBC’s Budget Estimate for 2021 presented by Prof. Amin Alhassan, includes overcoming the organisations main constraints for 2020 such as its inability to fund the total debt stock of ¢88,026,664 which is weighing heavily on the operations of GBC as well as high electricity tariffs making it difficult to carry out the public service mandate to non-commercial areas of the country. Furthermore, there is oversupply in media market leading to lowering of advertising rates.
These constraints notwithstanding, GBC’s outlook for 2021 include creation of six Regional Radio Stations for the newly-created regions, improvement in general content to reflect the diversity of Ghanaian cultures and values, acquisition of two new OB Vans for the Presidency and Broadcasting House BH3, increasing the Corporation’s online presence with Radio and TV content, replacement of Regional FM transmitters among others.
While the proposed Broadcasting Law will improve the general broadcast landscape and inure to the benefit of GBC, a revision of the GBC’s establishment Act of 1968 that dates back to a past political and socioeconomic era, is long overdue. The long and short of it all is that the role of GBC in nation building is indispensable. The Corporation must therefore be resourced adequately for it to perform its public service obligations effectively.
By: Raymond Tuvi, a Media and Development Consultant.