The Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA), has accused the Ministry of Communication of tampering with standards that the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA) has set to govern the digital migration of television broadcasting in Ghana.
A statement signed by President, Andrew Danso-Aninkora, accuses Ursula Owusu-Ekuful’s Ministry of sneaking behind the Standards Authority to doctor the governing document, smuggling in Conditional Access, that will give the ministry power authoritatively control the broadcast industry and given an undue advantage to a number of private service providers for the platform.
“On the 18th of December 2019, the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA) welcomed a revised standard (GS1099: 2019) on Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) …In a dramatic fashion, the MoC, working together with Mr. Andy Townend – representing Inview Technologies’, assisted by Mr. Oluwatoyin Subair – Founder of the erstwhile Hi-TV Pay Network in Nigeria and ILC Consulting Ltd, have come out with an alarming publication which is a doctored version of the Ghana Standards Authority’s newly gazetted and published Technical Standard of August 2019 as the Ghana Minimum Technical Specifications for Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) & Direct-to-Home (DTH) Receivers for Free-to-Air Television Reception,” the GIBA statement said.
According to it, “the DOCTORED document which was published on the 30th of December 2019, by the National Communications Authority (NCA) on their official website as a technical standard requires the broadcast industry in Ghana and all Ghanaian households to abide by its mandatory requirements for the reception of all TV programmes carried on the nation’s only free-to-air digital broadcasting facility. The requirements include the acquisition of a special decoder with proprietary software, before anyone could watch any Free-to-Air television programme in Ghana.”
The special decoder, it said will be controlled by Conditional Access software with Middleware applications to be provided by a foreign company called VERIMATRIX. Verimax was, solely selected by the MoC as their partner, the GIBA statement claimed.
“By default, Verimatrix who have also been awarded the business of running broadcasting valued-added services, shall perpetually provide updates to the platform because by virtue of the proprietary software introduced no other entity can perform updates to the platform. This raises serious issues of unfair competition…they have also been given the mandate to trade in broadcasting services, without authorization by the NCA as required.” The statement said.
It said the Communication Ministry did the doctoring of the GSA’s document in a bid to give the government a stranglehold on television broadcast media in Ghana, a thing that it said is a threat to democracy.
“Since the year 2017, the Ministry of Communications (MoC) has been attempting to implement dramatic changes in the television broadcast sector with the introduction of systems of control (CONDITIONAL ACCESS SYSTEM – CAS) which the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA) objected to, due to its ability to lockdown the liberalised airwaves and send the nation back to the dark days of government monopolized and controlled media.
It alleged that the Ministry is doing this under the ostensibly to set up a system by which government can police and collect TV license fees, but warned that members of GIBA operate based on business models that require them to do free to air so that advertising clients will have reason to stay in business with them.
Ghana decided to establish a single platform for television broadcast network in 2010, as part of the migration from analogue television offering to digital.
GIBA has claimed that since 2017, the Akufo-Addo Government has been using every trick in the book to make access to TV content a conditional one, in which domestic TV sets will have to buy decoders before they can receive channels that are specially allotted to them at a fee.