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Supreme Court sets June 23 for judgement on Conditional Access to broadcast

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The Supreme Court has fixed June 23 to deliver judgement in a case in which the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA) is challenging the National Communication Authority’s (NCA) introduction of conditional access to Free to Air-Television.

The Court fixed the date for judgement after it had dismissed a motion on notice by GIBA to amend their statement of case.

The seven Member panel presided over by Chief Justice Kwesi Anin Yeboah ruled that the amendment was unmeritorious.

It has however asked the parties to file any supplementary statements if any, at the Court’s Registry in addition to their memorandum of issues.

GIBA this year proceeded to the apex Court of the land over NCA’s decision to introduce conditional access to free-to-air TV broadcasting which to them breached the right to free press as enshrined in the 1992 Constitution.

In GIBA’s writ, the association is demanding a number of reliefs bothering on the Conditional Access (CA) System introduced as a mandatory requirement by the NCA.

The CA meant that media content of free-to-air broadcasters had been blocked by the NCA unless certain criteria had been met.

This GIBA held constituted an unnecessary restraint on the establishment and operation of private media as enshrined in the 1992 Constitution.

When the matter was called on Wednesday, Mr. Kweku Owusu Agyemang who represented GIBA said the Association had a motion for amendment because the NCA after the writ had published on its website the set-up of another Central Data which they were not comfortable with.

The court, however, held that the amendment was unmeritorious and same could not affect the matter before it and therefore tasked the parties to comply with the directive of the court to file a joint memorandum of issues for trial.

According to the Court the parties instead of filing a joint memorandum of issues, had rather filed separate issues.

It said that practice constituted a breach of the court’s order.

The seven member panel therefore ordered the parties to merge the issues that were filed.

GIBA is seeking a declaration that the blockage of media contents of free-to-air broadcasters through the use of the Conditional Access System introduced by the NCA was unconstitutional as same constitutes an unreasonable and unnecessary abridgement of the freedom of the media contained in Article 21(a) and 162 (1) of the Constitution.

It is further seeking a declaration that the blockage of media contents of free-to-air broadcasters through the use of the Conditional Access System introduced by the NCA contravened the spirit and letter of Article 21(f) of the 1992 Constitution since same constitutes an abridgement of the right to information guaranteed under the Constitution.

GIBA also seeks an order directed at the NCA to remove from the Minimum Requirements for Reception of Digital Terrestrial and Satellite Television Services any system in the nature of Conditional Access that encrypts or blocks the contents of Free-To-Air television channels from being received.

GIBA and the Ministry of Communications have disagreed over the introduction of the Conditional Access System even after the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA) has made it clear that, by all Standards the CAS cannot be said to be mandatory for free-to-air receivers.

Although GIBA welcomed the standards set by the GSA it allegedly accused the Ministry of Communications of doctoring the GSA’s document which instructed the broadcast industry to abide by the mandatory requirements for the reception of all TV programme carried on the nation’s free-to-air digital broadcasting facility.

Source: GNA

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