Scrap TV licence fee - Former GBC Director-General
A former Director-General of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC), Mr William Ampem-Darko, has called for the television (TV) licence fee to be scrapped and replaced with a public service broadcasting tax to help generate sustainable funds for the corporation.
He said the current TV licence fee was shrouded in controversy and could not be effectively collected to raise enough funds to help the state broadcaster perform its constitutional mandate.
“What we need now is to forget about the TV licence and rather go for a public service broadcasting tax that will be incorporated into electricity bills and deducted to fund the GBC. A trust should be formed to manage the money with an efficient auditing system to ensure accountability,” he said.
He made those observations at a media dialogue series organised by the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ) in Accra yesterday.
Dubbed “GIJ dialogue series,” the forum brought together stakeholders in the media industry to discuss the way forward for funding GBC, especially in the wake of the controversy surrounding the TV licence that was enforced in February, last year.
Mr Ampem-Darko and other panellists at the forum called for immediate steps to restructure the GBC to make it robust enough to deliver its mandate as a public service broadcaster.
He said the restructuring ought to be holistic to address structural inefficiencies, external influences and help generate relevant content that would reflect the country's development agenda.
He observed that GBC in its current status lacked the capacity to live up to its mandate as a public service broadcaster because of its over-reliance on the government for funding.
"The restructuring of GBC must also involve efficient funding mechanism because there is so much reliance on the government for subvention and this compromises the independence of the corporation because the one who pays the piper calls the tune. There should be a regime where the funding sources for GBC should not pass through the Consolidated Fund.
"I have been at GBC and I can tell you that the corporation sometimes tends to be doing the bidding of government, but I do not blame them so much because just one publication that does not favour the government can cost the subvention of the corporation for six months, " he said.
He justified the need for the public to pay the television licence fee to position GBC as a strong public service broadcaster that could meet the needs of all interest groups in its content.
Mr Ampem-Darko called on the GBC to outsource its production to individual producers and media institutions such as the GIJ and the National Films and Television Institute (NAFTI) to minimise cost.
The Vice-President of the Ghana Telecom University, Professor Isaac Abeiku Blankson, stressed that the restructuring required strong political will to be effective since that move had dire consequences.
"The restructuring will definitely include change of functions, change in management structure, and even laying off of workers. I will even say that the restructuring must start from the top and deal with external influences," he stressed.
Prof. Blankson added that more sensitisation was needed to make people know the difference in mandate between GBC and other commercial broadcasters so that they would be motivated to pay their TV licence fee.
The Rector of GIJ, Professor Kwamena Kwansah-Aidoo, said the time had come for a definite stance to be taken as to whether GBC should continue to be a public service broadcaster and whether the corporation had the requisite financial muscle to perform its mandate.
He observed that if GBC would have to remain a public service broadcaster, it was important to devise proper funding mechanisms to make it function properly.