The National Media Commission (NMC) has kicked against moves by the Government to establish a company under its tutelage to manage the platform of the impending digital migration.
According to the NMC, this, when done, would make the platform subject to the vagaries of politics and compel media organisations to do the biding of the Government of the day.
Speaking at a one-day regional public forum on the constitutional and legal implications of the digital migration in Elmina, Mr Kwasi Gyan-Apenteng, Chairman of the NMC, said Article 167(c) of the Constitution enjoins the NMC to insulate the state-owned media from governmental control.
He said the move contravened that provision and amounted to state monopoly of the media, which would endanger the freedom and independence of the media if measures were not taken to halt it.
Digital broadcasting, despite its numerous advantages had several challenges ranging from policy, governance, ownership and legalities, which needed to be addressed before take-off, Mr Gyan- Apenteng said.
He has therefore called for the establishment of an independent company to manage the digital platform as Ghana prepared for the digital migration by 2020.
“Proposing a company, under the direction of the Government, to determine what should be broadcasted will undermine the freedom and independence of the media. We need an independent body to manage the infrastructure,” he emphasised.
“This is not about the NMC seeking to take power, but it’s about enjoining the provisions of the Constitution. Media freedom and independence grows directly to the heart of the freedom of a nation,” he added.
The forum was organised by the NMC with funding support from the Frederich Ebert Stiftung (FES), a German Non-Governmental Organisation that focused among others on capacity building of the media.
It aimed at soliciting ideas on the enterprise of the digital migration, explore regulatory mechanisms and technical issues that needed to be addressed, to enhance the road map for the smooth take-off of the digital migration process.
Mr Gyan- Apenteng said the idea of the digital migration was critically important to the fate of the media because it was not just about providing infrastructure, but also about media content and for that matter, could not be left in the hands of the Government.
“The freedom that the media enjoy today didn’t just happen, people fought for it. What they are trying to do will send us back to the era before the 1992 constitution,” he said.
He said discussions on the digital migration must be done out of the reach of partisan politics for Ghanaians to have better understanding and appreciate the issues relating to it.
Some participants at the forum encouraged the NMC to fight the matter to the later, even if they had to go to the law court.
Giving a progress report of Ghana’s digital terrestrial migration, Mr Alexander Bannerman, Deputy Executive Secretary of NMC, said the process was progressing steadily.
He said over 53 transmission sites had been built across the country to facilitate the take-off in order to meet the deadline in 2020.
Currently, he said, both the analogue and digital transmissions were functional in Ghana, so consumers who still had analogue Television sets would have to purchase and connect their sets to set top boxes to receive the digital signals.