The Ghana Broadcasting Corporation has taken the lead to launch a policy guideline to regulate its coverage of this year's general election. GBC, being the first and by far the only public or state broadcaster is obliged to give coverage to all registered political parties. Indeed, article 163 of the 1992 constitution states that all state owned media shall afford fair opportunities and facilities for the presentation of divergent views and dissenting opinions. In the famous Supreme Court case, NPP vrs GBC and Attorney General, the court made it abundantly clear that fair in this context means equal. In other words, GBC cannot be selective about which political parties or candidates it offers the opportunity to present their views on critical national issues. In the same vein, the Corporation is equally under constitutional injunction to cover rallies and other political activities of every party or candidate. Having said that, emphasis must be placed on giving the parties and candidates equal opportunity. Either in power or in opposition, they must all be treated equally, giving the same duration and privileges. As at the last count, there are 24 registered political parties in Ghana and all of them must be covered adequately. One is not in doubt that GBC is capable of fulfilling this mandate. In the last election, the corporation really delivered to the extent that, unlike previous occasions, no candidate or party could accuse it of bias. One recollects with regret, instances in the past where leading Presidential Candidates were denied air time on the corporation's channels even when they were prepared to pay for it under the guise of political off season. It is refreshing to know that GBC is now offering free air time and space to political parties and candidates to sell their message to the voting public. Just June 13, the corporation, covered live, the National Delegates' Congress of the newly formed All People's Congress, APC, led by Hassan Ayariga.
It is gratifying that, even as IEA and NCCE haggle over who is best suited to organise this year's Presidential debate, GBC has arranged a programme to line up all the candidates to outline their programmes and policies and respond to critical questions from the public. In this electioneering and in any other one, the role of GBC in promoting clean and issues driven campaign cannot be over emphasised. Despite the proliferation of private and social media, the nation badly needs GBC. The kind of things which go on in the private and social media can upset one's stomach and bring chaos to the nation. That is why GBC is needed to sanitise the airwaves. In spite of accusations of being late in reporting on issues, one thing that cannot be taken away from the public broadcaster is professionalism and accuracy. Much has been said about offering all candidates opportunity, but it does not mean, it should or it shall accept anything on its airwaves. In fact, this position is backed by article 164 of the constitution, which states inter alia that, whatever the state owned media does is subject to laws that are reasonably required in the interest of national security, public order, public morality and for the purpose of protecting the reputations, rights and freedoms of other persons. This is to ensure that GBC's platform does not become the theatre of fabrication, insults, mudslinging and stoking of violence, division and extremism.
One is convinced that, GBC has what it takes, because it has demonstrated that over the years that it is capable of ensuring decent and decorous language on its airwaves. On the issue of fair and equal opportunities, the corporation must go a step further by reaching out to all the candidates wherever they may be found. Instead of waiting for the parties and the candidates to come and take advantage of the opportunities available, there is no harm if the corporation on its own goes out there and encourages the parties and the candidates to make their views and policies known to the public. It is great to hear that the corporation intends to assign reporters to each of the Presidential Candidates to report on their daily activities as it did during the last election. There is no doubt that with the launch of this policy guideline, the situation can only get better.
GBC, the authentic and trustworthy voice of Ghana.
BY BUBU KLINOGO, A JOURNALIST.