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GBC is Rough to Manage

GBC is Rough to Manage

Wed, 25 Feb 2009 Source: Mubarak, Ras

It is a nightmare to be the Director General of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, GBC. Being in charge of the state broadcaster is like walking in a land mine. GBC is a Trojan horse for any Director General. You have a zero chance of survival and hardly does anyone finish their job without a scandal. You have all sorts of people breathing down your neck. From serial callers to serial critics, from politicians to technicians, you are expected to perform magic under very cumbersome circumstances as if you were a David Copperfield. And when people's fantasy becomes reality, there's a faceless internal mafia group that instigate your removal makes sure you are pushed out by force or coercion.

I was not surprised at all at what happened recently on a live television breakfast show where the    D-G reportedly called the producers to interrupt the broadcast. It was just a matter of time before it came to that. According to reports, the D-G was unhappy about the composition of guests on the show, hence his interference. The panel was made up of two opposition members against one member of the ruling party. A member of the ruling party had called the Director of Television to protest. The Director General, the Producers and host and Richard Quashigah, the ruling National Democratic Party member who called in to express his displeasure at the panel composition all aired and I shall extrapolate on why every one of them unnecessarily made blunders

First of all the host and the producers have very serious questions to answer. And their query borders on a lack of good judgement, ineptitude and wasteful spending of state resources. The breakfast show is notorious for unnecessarily packing guest on the programme. You do not need four guests on the show especially when they are all political praise singers. It is so boring. You do not need 2 members each from the major parties even though this is not a hard and fast rule. Â One member each is enough. Anything more than that is monotonous unless all 4 guests have a position on the issues to be reviewed or previewed. Maximum number of persons on the talk show should be 3, one person from the left, right and non- aligned. Why should guests on the programme be necessarily members of the major parties which bring about another issue of marginalising minor parties? We have right and left wing political scientists who are not members of either of the two major parties and could spice up the breakfast show with their expert opinion.

The producers exhibited bad judgement because the panel was obviously not balanced. You bring on 2 opposition praise singers, 1 ruling party member and no independent opinion and expect the D-G not to fume at you incompetence? And this couldn’t have come at any better time than when the Director General is being accused of pushing the agenda of the opposition. Obviously such a faux pas would neatly play into the hands of his detractors, persons who want him removed. I think the programme needs fresh limbs altogether. It is not cutting edge enough and it is suffering a credibility problem. Gifty Ante is perceived to be sympathetic to the opposition. Gifty is one of the very hard working staff at the television section. It is hard work that has brought her this far and not favours. She’s worked her way through the ranks and as a private person she’s very down to earth. Attempts to pull Gifty down are quite unfortunate. I like her very much but honestly the programme needs a no holds barred presenter. Gifty is not cut for talk shows unless she can do more than just allow guest to make unchallenged statements.  And not just the breakfast show but programmes like and Talking Point and the Saturday Sports Show. Talking Point had been dead for a long time.

Anyone who worked at GBC would remember things like “the director says this or that.” For a very long time at GBC, many Regional Directors either stormed studios or called in to blast presenters except yours truly. I remember how Hamidu Chodi took over a talk programme from me and the late Kwame Owusu. In his benighted mind, we did ask question and he had prepared and given to a guest to come and chew and pour on a talk show Kwame and I hosted alternatively. Interestingly when the guest arrived, I had thrown my set of questions in the dustbin without even looking at it. You don’t expect me to spend a night or two researching a subject and then you feed me some rubbish because you are the regional director and want me to go softly on the guest. Good interviews are generated by good research, full stop.  I think it is lazy journalists who prepare an A-Z list of questions for guests ahead of an interview.  The only person I would make an exception for may be a very high profile head of state like Obama or the Chinese Premier and that would even have to be negotiated. I would rather defy and lose my job than compromise on an issue of principle.

If the current Director General had issue with panel composition, you go about it professionally. GBC radio and television are on satellite and beam nationwide. Ampem Darko was caught between two evils, public opinion and professional conduct. His situation was similar to a man who had the one choice of rescuing his wife or mother from drowning.  You cannot yank a programme off air because of an imbalanced panel, unless of cause the panel is in breach of very serious broadcasting conduct. You wait and punish those responsible and send a clear signal that there's a very high price to pay for clowning on national television or radio. GBC is a hard nut to crack, but you don’t pander to the wishes of politicians.

We have forgotten the teachings of people like Jerry Rawlings. Â Most people do not listen with objective ears when Jerry Rawlings speaks. When Jerry Rawlings espoused the concept of POSITIVE DEFIENCE, he was excoriated as usual by the press. Jerry Rawlings reminded us of our duty to be profession in all of our endeavours. It was wrong to put on air an unbalanced panel but very wrong to discontinue a live broadcast and deceive listeners about having a technical hitch. No one is going to believe you the next time an apology about a technical hitch comes up

The order to stop the programme was unlawful and should have been disobeyed. When I worked at the corporation’s Northern Regional station, I earned the nick name “Beyarga,” a Dagbani word for hard ears. I became notorious for defying Directors like Adam Cokra and the late Evans Acheampong who would sit in their homes and issue directives to stop broadcast because they didn’t like the music.  I was often told the Director doesn’t like this or that type of music, the Director doesn’t like reggae, as if one was there to serve the director alone.  In Ghana, you cannot ask questions and challenge your boss on issues of principle. The boss is the repository and paragon of virtue and knowledge, end of story.

GBC is a very sensitive institution albeit one that can be fixed. Nothing is impossible under the sun and it is not impossible to fix GBC, but it is very difficult. To solve GBC’s problems, you have sack or retire many of the workers.  Ace broadcaster and my protégé, Godwin Avernogbo believes 70 per cent of the people would have to go home. The attitude of most people is simply retrogressive and you can’t bring about change without changing the people who are to help you drive that agenda. The corporation has very hard working engineers and I don’t think there would be many casualties from the technical division. I doff my hat out for the technicians. The problem of GBC is with Administration, Programmes, Transport, Welfare and News and Current Affairs divisions. There has to be massive injection of capital to poach top ranking producers, journalists and administrators. The politicians have to keep clear. GBC Directors must stop taking orders from the politicians. The independence of our state media has been compromised for a long while now.

Richard Quashigah worked at GBC and knows the ropes. Calling the Director of Television is not the best way forward, especially when the programme is still running. Richard’s action could also be interpreted as interfering. People like Godwin, Peter Kabbah and Rosina Amaning who were best placed to transform GBC were forced to quit or retire in the case of Rosina. We have to strengthen our state institutions and cut out the interference.Â


Columnist: Mubarak, Ras