About 50 applications for new television stations have inundated the National Communications Authority.
The Statesman newspaper reported that the NCA has yanked the licenses of seven hopefuls before they even began transmission.
The NCA withdrew the seven licenses because the organizations in question were unable to get their stations on air within the specified timeframe. The head of the NCA, Major (rtd) J R K Tandoh said the decision was in line with government regulations designed to enhance an effective communications system in the country.
That still leaves the NCA with at least 40 more television license applications still to vet. But the NCA's Acting Director-General was quick to praise the government for the amount of support offered to his office during these busy times.
Meanwhile, three other licensed stations are set to hit Ghanaian airwaves in the next few months, including Oman TV owned by businessman and New Patriotic Party Member of Parliament for Assin North, Kennedy Agyapong.
However Oman TV and the other two stations possess licenses that are due to expire at the end of the year, meaning they could face the same fate as the "unlucky seven," although sources tell The Statesman Mr Agyapong's channel will begin broadcasting next month.
The authority also revealed that while 170 radio stations were granted licenses, 40 have yet to begin broadcasting, and are in danger of having their licenses revoked if that situation does not change by the end of the year.
Regarding the seven television stations which lost their license, Major Tandoh told The Statesman in an interview that once a license expires, fresh applications cannot be made for the same entity.
The NCA has also issued a directive to all television stations in the country to switch over to digital transmission instead of analog.
At the moment, television stations are required to start by switching to a simulcast, which is the simultaneous transmission of both digital and analog. The move is to allow for a gradual shift to the digital process and the eventual phase out of the analog system by the year 2015. When done, Ghana will be the first in Africa to switch to digital transmission.
So far, the response to the NCA directive by the television stations, "has been encouraging," said the retired Major.
Major Tandoh said the digital rollout will reduce saturation in the television landscape and will allow the introduction of a public broadcasting service.
The digital move, according to the NCA boss, will also provide greater quality audio and visual programming. The move is also likely to result in the existing television stations offering more channels thereby offering more viewing choices.
According to him, in order to make sure only the highest quality stations make it onto Ghanaian airwaves, the authority has developed rigorous guidelines to decide whom to award broadcasting projects to.
These include a detailed business plan (including educational and technical background as well as experience of key personnel), market analysis, and detailed financial plans to assure stakeholders of the viability of the new station.
Due diligence processes include financial viability including checks at various banks, assurance that technical operations conform to International Telecommunications Union standards, as well as a background check of the directors.
The NCA said these checks and scrutiny will serve to set the standard of regulation for the communications industry by setting and enforcing high standards of competence and performance to enable it contribute to the nation's prosperity through the provision of efficient and competitive service.
"This is the dream of President Kufuor's telecommunication policy and nothing stops us from attaining that feat," he said.
Credit: The Statesman