Digital Television Platform: NMC to defend media independence

By
Godwill Arthur-Mensah/Elizabeth Dabson, GNA

Accra, Oct. 23, GNA – The National Media
Commission (NMC) said it will defend the constitutional provision of the
freedom and independence of the media in the bid to switchover from the
analogue mode of television transmission to a digital platform.

It stated that a stakeholders’ consultation
the Commission organised in six regions on the governance and management of the
Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) platform concluded that the NMC must
rigorously defend the constitutional provision of the freedom and independence
of the media.

It, therefore, kicked against the draft policy
document by the Communications Ministry that proposed that the President should
be given the authority to appoint a board and chief executive officer of the
Digital Terrestrial Television Platform.

It warned that it would head to the law court
to insist on its right if the Government went contrary to the constitutional
provisions.

The Commission said the 1992 Constitution
mandated it to appoint a board and chief executive officer of the proposed
Central Digital Transmission Company Limited (CDTCL) to manage the DTT
Platform.

It said the Constitution had vested the
appointment of the boards and chief executive officers of the state-owned media
in the NMC in consultation with the President, which had been confirmed by a
2000 Supreme Court ruling in the case of the NMC versus Attorney General.

Nana Kwasi Gyan-Apenteng, the Chairman of the
NMC, addressing a news conference in Accra on Tuesday said the Commission had
expressed its views and position in the strongest terms to the Minister of
Communications, the President, the Speaker of Parliament and the Chairman of
the Parliamentary Select Committee on Communications.

The news conference was on governance and regulation
of the DTT Platform for the transmission of television content after the
switchover from analogue to digital transmission is completed.

Nana Gyan-Apenteng said the current draft
document proposed the formation of the CDTCL to manage the single digital
television platform, under the direction of a board and CEO appointed by the
President.

He said the proposals made in the draft
document for managing the DTT violated Article 168 of the Constitution and
explained that the Broadcast Signal Distributor (BDS) of the DTT was an
inseparable part of the whole television production process.

This, therefore, made it part of the
state-owned media asset whose governance had been prescribed by the 1992
Constitution of Ghana.

He said in as much as television programmes of
the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation would be transmitted via the digital
platform, the Communications Ministry’s proposal on appointment to the CDTCL
would violate Article 167 (C) that mandates the NMC to insulate the state-owned
media from governmental control.

“Apart from violating these specific
constitutional provisions, the proposal goes against the spirit of the
Constitution and our nation’s drive to achieve even greater freedom and
independence of the media,” Nana Gyan-Apenteng said.

“By way of illustration, now that we’re all
going to transmit through a single channel, if a bad government seeks to shut
down any media or if any entity wants to attack the television domain, all it
needs is to deny access to the single transmitter.”

He, therefore, urged the media to treat the
issue with the prominence it deserved in order to safeguard the rule of law,
independence of the media and freedom of expression in the country.

The Draft Policy on Digital Broadcasting Migration
states that a single national Free-to-Air digital signal multiplex platform
will be created for the use of all broadcasters utilising some frequencies for
transmitting digital TV signals to homes across the country.

In effect, the country would now have
television content producers and a broadcast signal distributor (DBS) to
transmit the signals produced by the content producers.

Nana Gyan-Apenteng said throughout the
discussions and negotiations on the DDT, the understanding had been that a special
entity would be set up to manage it and key stakeholders would be represented
on the board of the new entity.

The NMC, is therefore, concerned about the
creation, management and mode of appointment of the board and chief executive
officer of the single entity that would manage the digital platform.

He said the new arrangement now was that the
multiplex would transmit the signals produced by the content producers.

Nana Gyan-Apenteng also called for the right
policy framework to address the new transmission mode while emphasising the key
values that should define the role of the media in a democratic society, which
is characterised by freedom, independence, pluralism and diversity.

He said there had been discussions in the lead
up to the switch in transmission mode that focused on technical issues
including network technology, compression standards, consumer equipment and
funding of infrastructure.

If the issue was not addressed it could
threaten the constitutional foundation of the independence and freedom of
expression of the media, he said.

In 2006, member countries of the International
Telecommunications Union (ITU) agreed to migrate television transmission from
analogue to digital mode by the end of the decade.

The ITU said the move represented a major
landmark towards establishing a more equitable, just and people-centred
information society since digital television had the capacity to offer more
channels and possibility of offering more programmes to the viewers than the
analogue mode.

This, the ITU said, would promote diversity
and pluralism in television broadcasting, reduce operational cost and offer
opportunity for expansion of media organisations’ operations and grant citizens
universal access to media in deprived communities.

Additionally, it implies that more spectrums
could be freed for other uses and ensure greater efficiency in spectrum use and
management and offer quality vision and sound to viewers.

GNA

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