Opinion Ban on TV Stations: No big deal without a broadcasting law

The NCA on Wednesday took  nine channels off our screens -  ATV, Clive TV, ECN, Zoe TV, BTA, Care TV, Kessben TV, Elijah TV and Obinim TV (OB TV) owned by controversial ‘Bishop’ Daniel Obinim.

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NCA bans Obinim TV, 8 others play

NCA bans Obinim TV, 8 others

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Ghana's broadcasting sphere has been inundated with sensationalism, unprofessional conducts, and has become a vehicle for crude insults and invectives.

From the screening of telenovelas which do not match our cultural values, to pastors promising the 'whole world' and pouring insults on their 'opponents', there is no other way to describe the scene than  'despicable.'

The National Media Commission (NMC), which is expected to control content in the media landscape, has received a lot of backlash from some communication experts, media analysts and the general public for their inability to stamp their foot on the ground to ensure civility on the airwaves.

However, their role will be more effective if Ghana had a comprehensive broadcasting law that sets out clearly the legal framework to regulate the industry.

The NCA on Wednesday took  nine channels off our screens -  ATV, Clive TV, ECN, Zoe TV, BTA, Care TV, Kessben TV, Elijah TV and Obinim TV (OB TV) owned by controversial ‘Bishop’ Daniel Obinim.

The NCA explained that it took off channels on the K-Net platform because they violated Section 2(4) of the Electronic Communications Act 2008, Act 775.

The Act says “a person shall not operate a broadcasting system or provide a broadcasting service without a frequency authorisation by the Authority [NCA]”.

However, a lot more 'shoddy' channels are likely to crop up as a result of an increased availability of broadcasting space following Ghana's migration from analogue broadcasting to digital.

Parliament in 2015 passed the new Legislative Instrument (LI 2224), part of which states “an operator shall not convey or permit to be carried, content on a public electronic communications service or a broadcasting service without obtaining a content authorization from the Commission [National Media Commission]”.

But, there should not be any delay in the passage of the bill due to the following reasons:

1. A broadcasting law would enable Ghana have the legal framework to regulate the broadcast industry. Operators of radio and television stations will be required to adhere to stringent regulations and ethics.

2.  The media would be obliged to be responsible, as a broadcasting law would force radio and television stations to carry out their gate-keeping role more diligently and thereby protect Ghana's democracy. This becomes more imperative following the upcoming 2016 general elections, where 'hate speech' and abusive language usually becomes the order of the day.

3. Dr Charles Wereko-Brobbey, founder of Ghana's first private radio station, the RADIO EYE, has said the absence of a law to regulate independent broadcasting had literally led to the creation of an uncontrolled and messy media jungle with no defined bounds. The media practitioner believes it is high time the media allowed itself to be checked by advocating for the establishment of a broadcast law.

Dr Audrey Gadzekpo, a tutor at the School of Communication Studies, University of Ghana, and a member of the NMC once said this about the broadcasting law five years ago:  "We believe that the National Media Commission (NMC) has an important role to play in ensuring that our airwaves become the media for civility, tolerance, lively debate, information and education for the people and not a vehicle for crude insults and invectives." 

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