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Opinions of Friday, 15 July 2011

Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame

The National Media Commission Must Probe This Anomaly

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

When Ghana’s Information Minister John Tia Akologu sarcastically queries whether there is anything wrong with the National Democratic Congress (NDC) being financially heavily indebted to the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation for a longstanding non-payment of services already rendered by the state-owned broadcaster, it is not clear precisely what sort of answer the Gambaga native expects from his audience (See “Is It Wrong for NDC to Owe GBC? – John Tia Questions NPP” (MyJoyOnline.com 7/12/11).
And so, perhaps, somebody ought to remind the dour-looking Mr. Tia that, indeed, the sole reason given by the Rawlings-led erstwhile Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) for summarily executing then-Air-Vice Marshall Yaw Boakye was the fact that the latter had secured a housing bank loan whose terms of repayment had not been met at the time that Uncle Yaw Boakye was savagely led to his death at the Teshie Military Range.
Anyway, the main story here is that since its last delegates’ congress was held in the Northern Regional Capital of Tamale a couple of years ago, the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) has yet to settle its fiscal obligation, per a contractual agreement, with the perennially financially ailing GBC. On the face of it, the Information Minister is quite accurate in observing that as a publicly owned broadcaster, GBC has the social responsibility of covering events of national moment gratis, if such events can be clearly demonstrated to be geared towards our national development.
On the preceding score, of course, it cannot be gainsaid that both the NDC delegates’ congresses held in Tamale, a couple of years or so ago, and this year’s repeat in Sunyani clearly qualify to be classified as such. Still, what makes Mr. Tia’s query at once gratuitous and insolent is the fact that in the foregoing instances, verifiable contractual agreements had been formulated and ratified by both the ruling National Democratic Congress and the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation which, perforce, ought to be fulfilled.
In the main, the quite understandable gripe of Mr. Samuel Awuku, a leading member of the New Patriotic Party’s Communication Team, is that in seeming to be pursuing a flagrant policy of double standards, on the part of both the NDC and the GBC, resulting in the patently un-businesslike and unpardonably unprofessional laxity vis-à-vis the state broadcaster’s bookkeeping culture, or protocol, while other equally legitimately constituted political parties were strictly held to the GBC’s contractual agreements, both the GBC and the NDC risk being plausibly perceived as collaborative instruments of deliberate sabotage of Ghana’s democratic advancement.
On the preceding score, needless to say, the GBC has two alternatives, namely, to either continue with the current practice of demanding financial payment for the coverage of partisan political activities, irrespective of their social relevance for the development of Ghanaian democracy, or scrap the practice altogether in the name of salutary and indispensable acts of social and/or moral responsibility, as Mr. Tia would have the foregoing perceived.
The Information Minister is, however, grossly remiss to obliquely and implicitly observe that since “the GBC is a state-subvented organization and the government is fully responsible for the payment of employee salaries and the regular maintenance of broadcast equipment,” somehow, the National Democratic Congress as a ruling party reserves the right to singularly milk the state broadcaster.
Interestingly, Mr. Tia seems to readily appreciate the bizarre tenor of his argument, which is why he promptly calls for the separation of the executive branch of government, as a trans-ideological and non-partisan entity, from the political parties out of whose ideological aegis the former evolved into its present status. In other words, a government in power ought to be primarily perceived as an equal opportunity facilitator for all its citizens, irrespective of the overriding ideological proclivities of its dominant membership. Of course, it goes without saying that Ghanaian political culture has yet to assume this salutary neutrality and uniformity of purpose.
In the meantime, it is imperative for the National Media Commission (NMC) to step in and provide systematic guidelines vis-à-vis political events deemed to constitute a “social responsibility” of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, regardless of whether the hosting of such events is deemed to be seasonal or off-seasonal.
On the question of the financial security of the GBC, perhaps somebody needs to point out to the Information Minister that the days when the state-owned broadcaster was routinely perceived as a docile, collaborative appendage of government are over. These days, even the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the best of all state-operated broadcasters globally, is regularly being called upon by both policymakers and the citizenry at large to significantly share the burden of its operating budget. What the latter means is that the GBC ought to be run along the lines of an efficient profit-making quasi-private enterprise. This is precisely what it means to describe the GBC as a “state-subvented organization,” rather than a “state-subvented black hole.”

*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is a Governing Board Member of the Accra-based Danquah Institute (DI) and author of “Dr. J. B. Danquah: Architect of Modern Ghana” (Lulu.com, 2005). E-mail: okoampaahoofe@optimum.net.
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