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Opinions of Tuesday, 23 March 2004

Columnist: Alhassan, Amin Dr.

The Lokko Magic at GBC: A Failed Experiment in Management

When Ms Eva Lokko was appointed two years ago as the new Director-General, many considered her a God-sent savior to GBC. Ghana?s premier broadcaster was then just recovering from the messy financial maladministration of Mr. Seth Adjetey and his dismissed Director of Engineering, Mr. E.B.O. Mills.
Ms Lokko, at the time of her appointment, symbolized a promise of a new type of management that would help Ghana?s most resourced, but beleaguered media house to transform itself into a new image and function as a public broadcaster.
GBC?s transition from a state-controlled loudspeaker to a public service broadcaster started with the 1992 constitution and the subsequent empowerment of the National Media Commission to appoint its chief executive. We still remember the failed attempts of Dr. Obed Asamoah to challenge a Supreme Court interpretation of the constitution that resulted in the termination of the tenure of NDC appointed Chief Executives of State-owned media organizations including GBC.
Ms Lokko, came to GBC at the heels of a litany of male-headed disastrous administrations, notorious among them being the reign of terror of David Anaglate, under whom I had a personal taste of ruthless and temperamental leadership.
As a woman who built her career as a successful UN expert on IT, the assumption was that Ms Lokko would bring in fresh insight into the management of GBC. She reportedly holds two M.Sc. degrees in Electrical Engineering and Intelligent Management Systems and has worked as consultant in the UK and the in the US. Obviously these credentials made her a top contender for the job.
And for those of us who are familiar with the trials and tribulations of that vast empire called GBC, we were consoled by the fact that with a combination of her diplomatic background and a dose of feminine touch, Ms Lokko would succeed where many men have failed. She would be able to placate the various tensions that define GBC, a skill that was obviously lacking in Mr. Anaglate and Mr. Adjetey.
But recent developments at Broadcasting House seem to suggest that our hopes of a Lokko magic is destined to be dashed. The scanty news seeping out of the concrete walls of Broadcasting House and the bureaucratic system is worrying and disconcerting.
Anyone who knows GBC well will agree with me that workers of the organization have a lot of respect for their union leaders. They have a very responsive and responsible union that is known for its knack for exhausting all peaceful channels before opting for the red bands. Thus the news that Mr. Nathaniel Okine, GBC Union Chairman, led an in house demonstration against Ms Lokko?s leadership indicates a soured relationship between management and labor that is beyond repair. The entire GBC workforce is up against one person. The workers? action, we can deduce, is an indication that the tension has been simmering for quite a long while.
We still do not know the full list of grievances. We are told the workers are protesting among other issues, the withdrawal of their entitlements. Probably that was a project in prudent financial administration. But to go to the extent of withdrawing peanut incentives such as tea for night and early dawn shifts speaks not of prudence, but a stingy and miserly leadership that is not interested in maintaining worker?s morale.
That action speaks of administrative insensitivity. Imagine having to work in a very cold studio at odd hours without the benefit of nearby canteen services. The studios are kept chilly cold because of the broadcasting equipment and journalists and engineers must for that matter live with it. Tea is the least the caring employer can offer to ameliorate this occupational hazard.
As a media organization, a key feature of the workplace is staff motivation. Right from the DJ to the journalist and program producer, the trick is to make them feel motivated to give off their best. Mr. Anaglate and Mr. Adjetey failed to know this to their peril.
The report that there is only one printer and copier at GTV, and that newsrooms lack means of transport, a most strategic tool for news gathering, is rather disturbing. The confidential report by Ms Lokko?s deputy, Mr. Ken Amankwah is even more disquieting. Mr. Amankwah apparently wrote the report as a confidential to National Media Commission to account for his performance at GBC, and invariable to account for his boss? stewardship.
?I thought it was a joke when the D-G said we should justify our demand for TV sets?Does it need any justification for to watch and evaluate our own programmes?? reports a supposedly exasperated and aggrieved Deputy Director-General Amankwah. He also used rather usually strong adjectives to discredit the style of Ms Lokko?s leadership.
These are no signs of a house that is capable of overcoming its crisis. Obviously ?crisis? is the right word to describe the current situation at GBC. For a DDG to be forthright in his report about his immediate boss suggest that the administrative structure of GBC is in irreparable discordance. The center can no longer hold. And when nothing is done about it, mere anarchy will soon send GBC in a spiral descent into disaster.
It is time for the National Media Commission to step in and rescue the sinking ship that is left of GBC. The Lokko experiment has obviously not worked. Too bad for we those who heaved a sigh of relief when she was appointed. There is no doubt that GBC needs a management style that is a careful balance of diplomacy, tact, prudence and vigilance. Despite her promise and background, Ms Lokko has not demonstrated her ability to captain the ship. The best the National Media Commission can do now is to act by asking her to resign and to begin a serious search for new D-G. A stitch in time saves nine!

Dr. Amin Alhassan,
(former GBC journalist.
Now lecturer at Concordia University, Montreal, Canada.)

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