You are here: HomeNews2009 10 19Article 170418

Opinions of Monday, 19 October 2009

Columnist: Mubarak, Ras

To sell or not sell GBC?

How do you weigh the disadvantages against the real benefits of investing in the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, GBC?

In the age of free market competition, one might ask if there is any future for the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation or would it be better and cheaper for the country to leave the national broadcaster in private hands? What is the use of a national asset that is not only ineffective but costs the taxpayer more to maintain?

I make my suggestion for the sale of GBC slightly in jest. I am not in support of the sale of national assets. A closer look at the functions of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation makes it more of an asset than a liability. But it is hardly surprising that many people do not see it that way.

Since the liberalisation of the Ghanaian airwaves, more and more Ghanaians at home and abroad depend not on GBC but on private media for news and information. And one of the reasons for the lost of lustre is that GBC was given little time and resources to prepare for the competition when we liberalised the airwaves. The Ghana Broadcasting Corporation is in a crisis. Who or what is at fault- management, the union, staff or simply the cruel hand of public ownership? That’s a question I shall like you to ponder over. The structural decline of GBC is hard to imagine and we all have our share of the blame.

If the people of Ghana get to know how presenters and technicians make it possible for programmes to get on air, they would weep. There’s complete neglect and indifferent to the concerns of GBC staff. There are very heroic and embarrassing tales to tell but one that will suffice for now is a situation where a private citizen gives lorry fare to a senior broadcaster to enable her travel to get exciting stories for broadcast on national television. How pathetic could it get?

The cry of staff may have been loud but not loud enough. A national strike by staff of GBC perhaps on a day of an important national event is insane but seems to be the poleaxe that would wake the nation into action. The corporation needs investment to bring it inline with 21st century broadcasting requirements, but until we significantly provide incentives, reduce the number of supine staff to commensurate with the investment, we would be lumbered with a corporation that can never be able to meet its basic requirements. Job cuts must affect top management and subsequently widened to include lower ranks.

The state must not repeat mis takes of the past where government invested heavily in equipment and ignored investing in the people.

GBC needs people with a reputation of getting work done and extracting value. But that comes at a cost. It is in the public interest to transform GBC, but does the government have the will to undertake this expensive but beneficial exercise, and are Ghanaians prepared to pay the price?

I do not think so. Government has already mothballed several projects including funding for scholarships, salaries for the various sectors of the economy and a security outpost at the presidential palace.

The state of national cynicism is sad. We are very cynical about everything including investments that are in the long term interest of state. I’m sure if the state were to do today what it did after independence (building the Akosombo dam amongst others) the outrage over the amount involved would have been enough to bring down a government.

Several Ghanaians are dissatisfied with the service of GBC; the public is however not expressing solidarity with staff over their problems. Transforming the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation would cost us money, but are we going to choose recklessness over prudence and allow the corporation to completely collapse before we take notice and act?

The choice of the public is between accepting the largely drab programmes on GBC and adding voice to the calls for reform and not just criticising GBC; and the choice of government is to watch the corporation collapse and do little as GBC continues to decline or get the problems of GBC out of the way. GBC is a viable institution. In my last article about the corporation, I said it had the potential of upholding its public service mandate and making a lot of profit than the most profitable media outlet in the country, but the success of GBC depends on the public to demand first rate broadcasting and on the wholehearted support of government to do what is right. Until then, GBC is slowly but would surely become a relic of the past

Ras Mubarak Broadcaster & Publicist