MFWA Welcomes Akufo-Addo For Shutting Down Ursula's Directive To GBC

General News MFWA Welcomes Akufo-Addo For Shutting Down Ursula's Directive To GBC
JUL 23, 2020 LISTEN

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) welcomes the Presidential decision to suspend the execution of a Ministerial order to the state-owned Ghana Broadcasting Corporation GBC to surrender three of its six Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) channels, a directive the MFWA had challenged as “illegal and inimical.”

“The president of the Republic, Nana Addo-Dankwa Akuffo-Addo, on Thursday July 23rd, 2020, directed the Minister of Communications, Hon. Ursula Owusu-Ekufful, MP, to suspend the implementation of the directives given to the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) in connection with the reduction of GBC’s channels on the Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) platform, pending further consultation with stakeholders” a statement from the Presidency said.

The President’s directive came three days after the MFWA issued a statement challenging the propriety and constitutionality of the directive issued on June 26, 2020 by the Communications minister, Ursula Owusu-Ekufful.

The Presidential intervention also came a day after the NMC issued a statement asserting its constitutional right to protect GBC from undue Executive control. There had also been a barrage of criticism against the Minister’s order and opposition to the idea including a feisty argument in Parliament.

The Minister had explained in her letter that, the order to shut down three of GBC’s channels was to “ensure that there is redundancy on the national DTT platform which is currently operating at full capacity,” and urged the broadcaster to “consolidate its programming.”

However, on July 20, 2020, the MFWA issued a statement expressing concern that the directive from the Minister undermines the independence of the State broadcaster as guaranteed by the 1992 constitution and called on the Minister to withdraw the order.

The MFWA took the government to task for disregarding the media regulator, the National Media Commission (NMC) which has oversight responsibility over all state media, including GBC as spelt out in Articles 167 – 173 of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana and other provisions on institutional governance and operational independence of the state broadcaster and media pluralism generally.

“Why will the Minister disregard the NMC in issuing instructions to the GBC? Why was the NMC not even copied in the letter?” the MFWA queried.

The Foundation also said the government’s order sought to pre-empt the work of a Committee that the NMC has set up to assess and make recommendations for reforming GBC to become a vibrant and viable Public Service Broadcaster.

In view of the above, the MFWA called on the Communications Minister to withdraw the directive, failing which the President should act to ensure it is withdrawn. It also called on the NMC to urgently intervene to prevent the Board of GBC from complying with the illegal and inimical instruction from the Minister of Communications.

Following the MFWA’s call, and a petition to the regulator by GBC, the NMC reacted by stating it would be “unhelpful to democracy to leave the control of the gateway to public communications in the hands of a Minster of State.”

“Allowing politicians to control the gateway to public communication would introduce vulnerabilities into the constitutional firewalls of free expression in Ghana,” the regulator said in a statement issued on July 22, 2020.

The MFWA therefore hails the decision by the President as timely and appropriate. "We also commend the National Media Commission for asserting its authority over GBC and constitutional obligation to insulate the state media against executive interference.

"We reiterate our call on government to allow the Committee working on strategies to reform the operations of GBC to finish its work so that all stakeholders could know and play their roles as will be spelt out in the recommendations of the committee."