June 20, 2024
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DTT pricing: Be wary how you treat media; it is a pillar of our democracy – GIBA President

The President of the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA), Cecil Sunkwa-Mills, has urged the Communication and Digitisation Ministry to reconsider the pricing of the Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) platform.

Addressing the issue on JoyNews’ PM Express, Mr Sunkwa-Mills expressed concerns that the $10,000 per month price to be imposed on broadcasters could potentially cripple media houses in the country.

He therefore called for open discussions with the sector Minister, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, regarding the exorbitant amount to operate on the national DTT platform.

Mr. Sunkwa-Mills emphasised the uniqueness of the media in the country, highlighting its pivotal role in sustaining democracy.

He cautioned against treating it as a regular business and urged the Ministry to engage in a comprehensive dialogue to reassess the pricing structure.

“It’s a bit simplistic to look at the commercial model of exactly how much you have spent and then you just divide and split – that is a very simplistic model. It is not operated like that, especially for media in so many countries because you want your media to survive,” he said on Tuesday.

He pointed out the need to consider varying circumstances for different broadcasters, questioning whether entities like the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) and community radio stations should also bear the same monthly cost.

Mr Sunkwa-Mills expressed disappointment in the process, revealing that despite an initial agreement for a follow-up meeting with the Ministry and the Communication Committee in Parliament, the Minister had released pricing details the next day.

This move, according to GIBA, disregarded the ongoing discussions and the need for further engagement.

The GIBA President highlighted that the association had sought legal interpretation to understand the Minister’s authority to set the figure without proper engagement and clarification on the cost structure.

He stressed the importance of a transparent process and expressed the hope that a reasonable solution would be reached through dialogue.

On the same show, Ranking Member on Parliament’s Communications Committee, Sam George, advised GIBA to withdraw its legal action and instead present a counteroffer to Parliament for resolution.

He believed that litigation would not provide a sustainable solution to the issue at hand.

While acknowledging the legitimacy of GIBA’s concerns, he emphasized that the Minister alone cannot impose such fees, as they must undergo the legislative process for approval by Parliament.

“GIBA has some legitimate case to make even if the $10,000 is the acceptable fee; the Minister on her own cannot impose that fee because this is a public fee and charge, so it must come to the Subsidiary Legislation Of Parliament for them to approve the charges before the minister can charge that fee.

“So the resolution to this matter is the minister to come to parliament with the fee for approval. I also think that GIBA must be minded not to be overly litigious because you may still be in court but if the minister fulfills the legal requirement of coming to Parliament and parliament approves it, you would have to pay,” he said.

Conversations surrounding the DTT national platform were resuscitated after Mrs Owusu-Ekuful’s warned on Monday that television signals to homes and offices may be cut from next year should operators fail to pay for the platform.

The Minister insisted that the warning is a result of the government having to pay millions of dollars for their use of the platform and can no longer bear the expense.

Digital Terrestrial Television is a technology for terrestrial television where television stations broadcast television content in a digital format.

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