A seven Member panel of the Supreme Court presided over by Chief Justice Kwesi Anin Yeboah has fixed June 23, 2020 to deliver judgement in the case in which the Ghana Independent Broadcaster Association (GIBA) has dragged the National Communications Authority (NCA) and Attorney General (AG) to court.GIBA early this year sued the NCA and the AG’s Department over the NCA’s decision to introduce conditional access to free-to-air TV broadcast as a breach of the right to free press enshrined in the 1992 Constitution.
In a writ filed, GIBA demanded a number of reliefs including that the Conditional Access (CA) System introduced as a mandatory requirement by the NCA by which media content of free-to-air broadcasters are blocked by the government unless certain criteria have been met, constitutes an unnecessary restraint on the establishment and operation of private media as enshrine
In court today, when the case was called, GIBA had a motion for amendment of its earlier writ before the court dismissed on grounds that was described by the apex court as “unmeritorous.”
Also, the parties failed to comply with the directive of the apex court to file a joint memorandum of agreed issues for trial.
The parties, instead of filing a joint memorandum of issues, ratuer filed separately, somethingbthe apex court described as breach of court order.
The panel court merge the issues that were filed separately, before fixing June 23, 2020 for judgement.
It also seeks a declaration that the blockage of media contents of free-to-air broadcasters through the use of the Conditional Access System introduced by the NCA is unconstitutional as same constitutes an unreasonable and unnecessary abridgement of the freedom of the media contained in Article 21(a) and 162 (1) of the 1992 Constitution.
Another relief also seeks a declaration that the blockage of media contents of free-to-air broadcasters through the use of the Conditional Access System to introduced by the NCA contravenes the spirit and letter of Article 21(f) of the 1992 Constitution since same constitutes an unnecessary abridgement of the right to information guaranteed under the Constitution.
GIBA also seeks an order directed at the NCA to remove from the Minimum Requirements for Reception of Digital Terrestrial and Satellite Television Services any system in the nature of Conditional Access that encrypts or blocks the contents of Free-To-Air television channels from being received.
NCA Conditional Access System
It is recalled that the Ministry of Communications, through its agency NCA, since 2017, has been attempting to implement dramatic changes to television broadcast sector with the introduction of systems of control (Conditional Access System – CAS) which GIBA frowned upon due to its ability to lock down the liberalized airwaves and send the nation back to the dark days of monopolized and controlled media.
For some time now, the GIBA and the Ministry of Communications have disagreed over the introduction of the Conditional Access System even after the Ghana Standards Authority has made it clear that, by the Standards the CAS cannot be said to be mandatory for free-to-air receivers.
Subsequently, GIBA welcomed the standards set by the Ghana Standards Authority and accused the Ministry of Communications of doctoring the Ghana Standards Authority document which instructed the broadcast industry to abide by the mandatory requirements for the reception of all TV programmes carried on the nation’s free-to-air digital broadcasting facility.