05.04.2004 Feature Article

The National Media Commission, the GBC Board in the Making of the A Crisis

The National Media Commission, the GBC Board in the Making of the A Crisis
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As the crisis at GBC unfolds we get to uncover important pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that surrounds the claims and counterclaims about the management-cum-labor brouhaha. In a previous article “The Lokko Magic at GBC” I bemoaned the fact the public was not yet aware of the full list of the workers' grievances and their justification, even if I rushed to call for the resignation of the beleaguered Director-General.

My further probing uncovered multiple perspectives on the crisis that calls for further analytical discussion. Some sources claim the problems brewing at GBC are partly an NMC making while others put the blame on Ms. Lokko's micro management style that failed to respect lines of authority of the vast and complex bureaucratic machinery of GBC.

The current crisis, according to the first school of thought, has its genesis in the processes leading to the appointment of Ms. Lokko and her deputy, Mr. Ken Amankwah. The NMC, to be more precise, the previous NMC, erred in pairing the two up to manage GBC for the fact that Ken Amankwah, initially contested and lost to Ms. Lokko.

NMC insiders have even revealed that Mr. Amankwah's performance at the interview was dismal and was not even among the first three. In addition, three other GBC senior staff, like Mr. Amankwah, also made unsuccessful bid for the D-G job.

The again the NMC advertised for the post of DD-G and instead interviewed the candidates for the post of D-G. This blatant disregard for due process and transparency leaves the current NMC in a rather awkward position. For we still have the undisputable fact that the post of D-G was never advertised but filled.

In the wake of these revelations, Ghanaians need to know why the previous NMC advertised for the post of DDG and instead appointed the winner as the D-G. In addition we need to know why the NMC went back to pick a failed bidder for the DG job and re-packaged him for appointment as DDG. These moves were apparently the midwife that delivered GBC unto the altar of the current labor-laced tension and ill-advised micro-management style of the chief executive.

This is because with the appointment of Mr. Amankwah and a host of other disappointed D-Gs at post at GBC, Ms. Lokko found herself in the unenviable situation of working with her subordinates who had battled in vain for her job. And now that her probationary appointment period is closing in, one should not be surprise if those who failed to clinch the top GBC job are now the falconers behind the current agitated labor force at Broadcasting House.

The NMC should have known, according to those who argue along this line, that sending someone who has made a failed bid for the post of D-G to become the DD-G is a recipe for managerial conflict. It is from this perspective that one can understand the motive of the loud-mouthed deputy trumpeting his boss's problems to the media under the guise of reporting to the NMC.

If this line of reasoning is acceptable, one can argue that the previous NMC, as the architect of the current crisis, played the tune and our diplomatic lady danced remarkably well to it.

How did Ms. Lokko dance to the tune? Well, she first of all antagonized her deputy by recommending to the NMC that he is not good and need to be sent for an intensive 6-month training in management. She bracketed out Mr. Amankwah from the decision making process at GBC including querying him for reading Board Meetings minutes. Very strange!

Some of the methods allegedly used to maroon Mr. Amankwah are so petty that one finds it difficult to understand. For instance, Mr. Amankwah claims that the D-G refused to approve his request for complementary cards, and also introduced him to GBC staff as not being Ashanti but Ewe. This last part may admittedly not be petty within the circumstances of GBC ethnic politics.

Those who are familiar with the problems of GBC will well remember that one of the legacies of the previous chief executive, Mr. Ago-Adjetey is the tribalization of the rank and file of GBC staff. By reportedly stressing on the Ewe background of Mr. Amankwah, Ms. Lokko was only stoking the embers of a dying flame to her advantage.

The activists I spoke to at GBC on the phone see no NMC role in the making of the crisis. For them – and they seem unanimous on this – madam is her own undoing. She could at least have respected the lines of authority that makeup GBC administration.

Their list of grievances include:

· D-G disregards the stipulations GBC Collective Bargaining Agreement, suspends staff without pay and without due process. · Advertised posts of Regional Directors but exclude qualified GBC staff from applying. · Monies deducted for insurance are not fully paid. Workers want external auditors to find out why. · Workers want over deductions of social security and tax from salaries also investigated. · Doctors at GBC clinic have resigned while nearby Ridge Hospital has posted a “No treatment for GBC staff” because GBC has failed to settle overdue medical bills. Ms. Lokko does not consider the matter a priority. · Main staff canteen closed down because of the building is in a state of disrepair. · Shift workers (radio and TV) sometimes have to sleep over night in studios due to lack of transport to send them home. · GBC spends about a 1000 USD a month on D-G's accommodation while Ms. Lokko continue to say GBC cannot raise two to six million cedis for urgent staff training.

Ms. Lokko has responded to some of the grievances. On the issue of transport for the news divisions, she is reported as having directed reporters to ask her office for transport anytime they needed one. But according to Ms. Lokko, the reporters hardly did this and yet complain that they lack means of transport for the discharge their duties.

I am tempted to believe that Ms. Lokko is sincere in her response about the transport needs of the news divisions. But some one should have told her it is simply not practicable for a reporter to go as far as the D-G's office to ask for transport to chase news at say 10 p.m. A newsroom by nature needs a vehicle on standby at all times that it is opened; in the case of GBC, for 21 hours a day. This is a not a luxury.

Apart from conflating the newsroom for a boardroom, the D-G should have known that when news breaks out, no reporter worth his salt will want to go to the D-G's office to ask for transport. You will be better off walking! Then again when one discovers that GTV does not have even single DVD player, the initial shock soon gives way to apprehension: Where is GBC heading?

In the wake of all these mix ups of claims and blames, GBC insiders and observers were somehow enthused by the decision of the GBC Board of Directors to hold an emergency meeting last week to resolve the hydra-headed problems of the organization. But instead of coming out with a response to the substantive issues the Board took to a game of deflection by hammering on the secondary matter of DDG vs. DG. The tension between the two is tangentially tied to the micro management style of GBC's chief executive and the legitimate grievances of the workers.

The Board should have known that it lacks the capacity to dismiss Mr. Ken Amankwah. And if it chose to recommend his dismissal to the NMC, it should have done so in confidence and not in the same loudmouthed style for which it is supposedly dismissing him. Mr. Amankwah is no angel, but the board's behavior is uninformed if not an outright disregard for due process.

Given the messy performance of the GBC board and the ex-NMC, the ball is now in the court of the current NMC. And the fate of GBC lies directly on the outcome of its informed wisdom. It has the administrative responsibility of making up for the error in appointing Mr. Amankwah and the moral responsibility of listening to GBC workers' demands. By Dr. Amin Alhassan, (former GBC journalist. Now lecturer at Concordia University, Montreal, Canada.) Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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