Charging viewers for free-to-air content illegal – Sam George

Ningo Prampram MP, Sam George

A member of the Communications Committee in Parliament, Sam Nartey George has described as illegal and without basis attempts by the government through the National Communications Authority (NCA) to charge viewers for accessing content from free-to-air television networks.

He says it is unconstitutional for such fees to be imposed on Ghanaians.

A draft policy being pushed by the Communications Ministry and its regulating agency, the National Communications Authority, NCA, seeks to regulate broadcasters when the country fully migrates from analogue television broadcasting to a digital transmission platform.

But speaking on Eyewitness News, Sam George admonished the two institutions to be circumspect in their dealings over the matter in order not to deprive the ordinary television viewers of what is due them.

“With the conditional access, the government is saying that it will introduce a software that will block viewers from the contents of the free to air content sent to their homes unless they pay TV license fees. Now the government is using technology to block recipient from getting the [FTA networks]. This is in itself, a disservice to the service provider and that again is an infringement of the constitutional rights of viewers to access information, entertainment and education through the media. These are constitutional matters; so what the Ministry is doing is illegal. It was tried in other jurisdiction without success and so I don’t know why the ministry is treading on this path in the name of TV license.”

While warning that the decision by the NCA will cripple media owners within FTA space, he entreated government to among other things, find other innovative but legal mechanisms than these charges in the name of TV licenses.

“The 1992 constitution says that there should be no financial impediments in my way to access television. Even if they want to amend that act in conformity with the constitution to collect digital access or TV licenses fees, there are several nouvelle ways to do that. They don’t have to impose it. All they have to do is how CSP is introduced in the telecom sector or the streetlight light levy and petrol [taxes]. There are ingenious ways of collecting without contravening the provision in the constitution. If we make FTAs paid for, within a period of six months to one year, they will all collapse.”

We oppose moves to charge viewers for free-to-air content – GIBA

Already,  the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA), has strongly opposed to moves by the government to slap charges on TV audience for access to free-to-air television channels.

An Executive Council member of GIBA, Prince Hari Crystal, has said the government has no business restricting access to Free to air channels as authorized by law.

“GIBA is strongly opposed to the proposal to implement a conditional access system to digitize terrestrial television platform which has been set up primarily to deliver free to air television services to the public. The Ministry must not charge viewers to pay a digital access fee to enable them to watch free to air television when in fact it is broadcasters who will be paying for transmission services on the digital TV platform and which requires more viewers for the sustenance of the free to air TV business as classified by the NCA”, he said.

The migration from analogue to DTT involves a process in which the transmission of television broadcasting signals using analogue technology is replaced with digital technology (“digital migration”).

This digital broadcasting migration only involves terrestrial broadcasting and does not affect satellite broadcasting, which has been digital for some years now in Africa.

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