The Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA) is seeking an interlocutory injunction at the Supreme Court to halt the National Communications Authority (NCA) from implementing the Conditional Access for Free-to-Air TV broadcast policy.
GIBA is already in court over the matter but believes that without the injunction, NCA would go ahead and implement the conditional access control despite the pendency of the case in court.
The Association in its motion is praying “…for an order of interlocutory injunction to restrain the defendants/respondents herein from implementing any system of conditional access that allows the defendants/respondents [NCA], their assigns and any other person authorized by them from encrypting or blocking the media content of Free-To-Air broadcasters in Ghana including members of the plaintiff/association [GIBA], the subject matter of the suit before this Honourable Court, pending the final determination of this suit upon the grounds contained in the accompanying affidavit and for such further orders as this Honourable Court may deem fit.”
In its original suit, GIBA argued that the Conditional Access for Free-to-Air TV broadcast is a breach of the right to free press enshrined in the 1992 Constitution.
It wants any progress in the implementation halted while the case is ongoing.
The Association maintains that “the encryption of content is not a necessary component of the migration from analogue to digital television” hence should not be part of the policy.
GIBA argued that if the clause in the policy is not removed, “all other operators and in fact the general public would lose the opportunity to broadcast and receive information”.
In its writ filed at the Supreme Court in January 2020, GIBA argued that the Conditional Access System introduced as a mandatory requirement by the NCA constitutes an unnecessary restraint on the establishment and operation of private media.
The Conditional Access System will see media content of Free-To-Air broadcasters blocked by the government unless certain criteria have been met before access to content is granted to the public.
GIBA is also seeking a declaration that the blockage of media content of Free-To-Air broadcasters through the use of the Conditional Access System introduced by the NCA is 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 1992 Constitution.
Another relief also seeks a declaration that the blockage of media content of Free-To-Air broadcasters through the use of the Conditional Access System introduced by the NCA contravenes the spirit and letter of Article 21(f) of the 1992 Constitution since same constitutes an unnecessary abridgement of the right to information guaranteed under the Constitution.
The substantive case is expected to be heard on March 11, 2020.
The Ministry of Communications through the NCA has since 2017 been attempting to implement changes to television broadcast sector with the introduction of systems of control which GIBA frowned upon because of the access concerns.
It has over the last three years argued that the policy will take away the public's right to freely access free television programming.
After previous misgivings, GIBA welcomed a revised standard on the Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) and Direct-To-Home (DTH) Receivers by the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA) after the Conditional Access System was made non-mandatory.
But on January 8, GIBA came out with a statement saying the NCA published a document on its website on December 30 that was at odds with the GSA standards agreed upon indicating the Ghana Minimum Technical Specifications for DTT and DTH receivers for Free-to-Air Television Reception.
It described the purportedly new document as alarming.