Mrs Elizabeth Smith, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association (CBA) has urged Public Service Broadcasters (PSBs) to ensure quality programming to serve the interest of the public.
She said; “This will keep public support for the PSBs at a high level”.
According to her, PSBs, which set to only serve the interest of the government and or bring in a specific income, would find it difficult to survive.
Mrs Smith, who is a recipient of the Order of the British Empire (OBE), said this when delivering a lecture to mark the 75th Anniversary Celebration of the establishment of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) in Accra on Friday.
It was under the topic: “The Future of Public Service Broadcasting.”
The lecture, which was the fifth in the series in the year, climaxed the anniversary attended by some past and present staff members of GBC including former Directors-General, representatives of media houses and media associations such as the Ghana Journalists Association.
Mrs Smith said the increasing number of commercial broadcasting channels, offering variety of programmes and a choice to watch at one’s own preferred time, presented the PSBs with a challenge to adopt pragmatic ways to sustain audiences.
She deplored a creeping situation where most of the respected old PSBs had become subservient state broadcasters, serving the government before the public and making their news stories to lack credibility compared to their commercial competitors.
She urged governments to stop interfering in the running of PSBs.
Mrs Smith said the public was prepared to support the PSBs because of its quality programmes that promoted national aspiration and nurtured national cohesion and education and urged the PSBs not to shirk such a responsibility.
She suggested that PSBs should streamline some of their programming to keep its audiences from declining too fast.
“Using a number of channels, the broadcaster can cross-trail and cross programme across all its outlets – TV, radio and website, and so use some of the same original material in different ways to suit different kinds of audiences and also improve schedules to make appropriate material available at the best time for particular audiences.
“It can drive down its costs in order to transfer funds into cutting edge areas such as computerized play-in, electronic editing and distribution. It can use FTP for incoming dispatches and invest in broadcasting-linked websites,” she said.
She urged PSBs to develop appropriate mechanisms to raise funds to support their operations adding; “if we fail to do this, there could be no 100th Anniversary for many of the great PSBs”.
Mr William Ampem-Darko, Director-General of GBC, called on Parliament to take a bold decision to increase the TV licence fee from the current 30 Ghana pesewas to a more realistic amount to enable the GBC to effectively operate as a PSB.
He said GBC received funding through only government subvention and revenue, which was inadequate to managed a multi channel TV station and operate multicasting; both analogue and digital and 11 FM stations.
He called on civil society organisations and other stakeholders “to rise fearlessly to defend the PSB as soon as they notice any unnecessary interference or unjustifiable control from any quarters and also to keep the PSB on its toes to do the right things and to do things right”.
He expressed the hope that the Broadcasting and Freedom of Information Bills would soon be passed.
Professor Kwame Karikari, Director of the Media Foundation for West Africa, who chaired the event, said despite the challenges, GBC survived adding its continual survival was crucial for the development of the nation.