The Minister of Information, Mustapha Hamid, on a number of occasions, since he was nominated and confirmed, has expressed the urgent need to effectively resource the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) to enable it to function as required. The Minister has therefore advocated an effective collection of TV licence fees in Ghana to ensure advance resourcing of the state broadcaster to enable it to deliver its functions effectively. Last week, in a special interview with the GBC after he toured the institution to familiarised himself with its operations, the Information Minister said he will help GBC roll-out innovative ways of collecting TV licence fees. He stressed the need to work to make the state broadcaster a major brand that could be competitive on the international scene. This is a very laudable initiative by the Information Minister, because globally, TV license fees are the major means of resourcing state broadcasting institutions. It is imperative therefore that all stakeholders welcome the initiative to help GBC to raise its own money in order to be truly independent of government control. Even in terms of government subvention, it is possible to position GBC as a global player on the international broadcasting arena.
Currently, even though it is the premier broadcasting institution and arguably the largest in network, it is not the first in audience share. This may primarily be due to certain basic challenges such as human resources and modern and effective equipment, all of which come with adequate financing. The TV licencing Act 1966 (NLCD 89) as amended, directs that “a person shall not install or use a television receiving set unless there is in existence in relation to that set a valid television receiving set license granted by the licensing authority. The Act also directs that “a person shall not carry on the business of selling, hiring or otherwise disposing of television receiving sets or of repairing television receiving sets unless that person holds a valid dealers’ licence, granted by the licensing authority in relation to the respective business.”
Throughout the world, the laws on Television Licence, when backed by effective collection mechanism have seen broadcasting institutions including such big names as the BBC and the SABC thriving. England for instance raises an average of £3.7 billion annually from TV licence fees while that of South Africa is in the region of $2.4 billion. In England for instance, it is a criminal offence to fail to pay TV licence of £145.50 rising to £149 as from the first of next month, without any cogent reason. Even residents and citizens over the age of 75 are not exempted and therefore the government through concessions provides for these categories of people.
Comparatively, Ghana’s TV licence fees of a minimum of GH¢ 36 is in the lowest group, if not the lowest. Residents in South Africa, pay an annual TV licence fee of Rand 265 about GH¢92. Undoubtedly, GBC’s efforts to collect the fees remains a challenge as there is a general apathy among the populace in terms of payment. Therefore, the Information Minister’s move to help GBC to find pragmatic means of TV licence collection in the country must be welcomed and supported. This will primarily be used to fund the television, radio and online services of the GBC.
The Corporation itself must lead the way. Very easy and motivational methods need to be employed to achieve this feat. In conjunction with the National Commission for Civic Education as well as the Metropolitan, Municipal, and District Assemblies, MMDAs, the GBC must embark on a sustained public education to ensure that the citizenry understands and appreciate the need to willingly pay their TV licence fees.
This is a sure means of making the Minister’s dream for the state broadcaster, a reality.
BY NANA SIFA TWUM, MEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS CONSULTANT – LONDON- UK.