Even if we are to pay for TV licences, there are at least 5 reasons why GBC mustn’t receive a cedi until it fully reforms its ways and norms.
1. It (GBC) competes with the private media agencies for advertising money. Adding tax money on top of that is unfair. The decision to give a sop out of the licence money to the private industry lobby group, as a counterbalance, is a cynical tactic that only worsens the illogicality of the whole endeavour.
2. It does not respect public interest advocacy. When I used to help manage IMANI’s events, GTV was the only station that refused to honour a single invitation despite detailed written explanations regarding the public interest value of those events. They refused to carry comments and cover treatments on STX, China CDB loan, China Hassan, etc. All of which became matters of topical public interest.
3. It charges for covering non-commercial events, even those of obvious news value. I have seen invoices issued by GBC to cover newsworthy events of a non-promotional and non-commercial nature. This means that GBC considers its airwaves as available to the highest bidder. To use taxpayer’s money to endorse such a retrogressive notion of broadcasting is tantamount to subsidizing unethical broadcasting. This is because charging to cover an event requires that the said event be treated as an advertorial and not as news (viewers need to know that airtime has been paid for by a party connected to the subject or event being covered). GTV regularly flouted this basic ethic.
4. Unlike public broadcasting systems elsewhere, GBC is not organised properly as a Public Trust. It’s governance and management are highly susceptible to the government of the day influence. Though recent assertiveness of the NMC has somewhat improved the situation there remains insufficient safeguards against state influence in the appointment of board members, managers and other key functionaries.
5. GBC is no longer the primary community broadcasting medium. Its audience share across the country has shrunk to a point of near irrelevance. There is now no basis to suggest that a tax-funded model is more effective in delivering any content or covering any niche that the advertising-funded model cannot penetrate. GBC’s own “strategic business units” probably recognises as much hence the limited investment made to date in community broadcasting and the increasing, even if also awkward, attempts to match the private stations in entertainment programming. Why should public taxes go to underwrite this lifestyle?
It is shocking that the government is allowing the controversy about the TV licence wahala to go to waste. What happened to “strategic policymaking”? Isn’t this the right time for Government to ride on the wave of discontent to announce wide-ranging reforms to public broadcasting with a view to fixing what is clearly a very broken model?