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Major Albert Don Chebe (retired), Director-General of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC), on Monday announced that the collection of television license fees would start from the beginning of August, to enable GBC perform effectively as a public service broadcaster.

Samsung-led flat screen televisionMajor Chebe said this at a forum to throw more light on the issue, and educate the public to understand the reasons behind the payment and the need to pay the fees.

The forum discussed three main issues: the need for public service broadcasting, funding model, and the TV licensing fees.

Organized by the Graphic Communications Group Limited (GCGL), it brought together panel members from the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA), National Media Commission, media practitioners and Dr Charles Wereko Brobby, Chief Executive Officer of Clean Power.

Only the model for sharing out the funds was silent in the law, but Major Chebe said that was a small issue, adding that sooner or later it would be fashioned out.

Major Chebe said the TV Licensing Act, 1966 (NLCD 89) as amended, was not new because it had been in existence since 1966 and had been amended periodically.

He said the levy was not levied because a family watched TV or any particular station programmes, but a license for installing and using a TV receiving set as stated in section 1 clause 1 of the GBC law 1968.

He said TV license fee was created to support public service broadcasting at a time when there was only one broadcaster, undertaking public service broadcasting, but today there are several stations some of which devote time to public service broadcasting especially during national disaster, emergencies or when we have health alerts or other external threats to the nation.

Major Chebe said the TV license fees remained at the 1991 rate of 30 pesewas, while other fees, school, medical, passport, land water, electricity, received countless revisions upwards.

He said to determine whether a public service broadcaster was good, bad or ugly, was the kind of funding model upon which the broadcaster depended.

The Director-General said South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) adopted the hybrid funding model, and about 13 per cent of SABC?s budget came from licence fees with over 50 per cent from advertising.

He said Ghana was classified within the countries with a hybrid funding model even though in reality TV license fees currently contributed nothing, adding that the last TV license fees in Ghana contributed a calculable figure was in 2009 when it contributed one per cent

He explained that State Broadcasting was not a public service broadcasting, because PSBs were supervised by independent trustees or commissions, like the National Media Commission.

Major Chebe said the confusion in Ghana was arising from the fact that even though the NMC was a constitutionally mandated body to manage state-owned media, including GBC, due to the absence of independent funding like the TV license fee, GBC continued to subsist on subvention from government, as was the case before the 1992 Constitution came into force, making it difficult to operationalize the object of the 1992 Constitution which created the NMC to insulate the state-owned media from governmental control.

He said the implementation of a realistic collectable fees of GH36.00 per TV per year would finally remove government chains from GBC, and make it independent, accountable and completely transparent to all Ghanaians. especially Ghanaians who are suspicious of the financial ties between GBC and sitting governments and GBC neutrality particularly during the political season would guaranteed both in words and in actions.

He said the sharing formula agreed to by stakeholders would ensure that more private broadcasters would devote air time to discussing developmental issues that would help accelerate the socio-economic advancement of the country.

Major Chebe said the resumption for the collection of the TV license fee shall be largely mace electronically through the internet by users in Accra and other parts of the country on the GBC website; tvlicence.com.gh.

For manual payments, users will be able to pay at 175 out of the 368 Ghana Post stations connected on the internet where manual receipts and licence will be issued these stations for instalment and full payment respectively.

Mr Akwasi Agyeman, President of the GIBA, said there was the need to understand what was permissible in public broadcasting so that if an amount was provided to any independent broadcaster, they should be in a position to perform as expected.

He said there was still need to educate the public on the TV licence fees, adding that independent broadcasters also provided PSB in different shapes and forms.

Dr Wereko-Brobby, CEO of Clean Power, was the only panelist who resisted the immediate collection of the fees, because he said the law was silent on the share out formula.

Mr George Sarpong, NMC Executive Secretary said even though the law was silent on the sharing formula there was nothing prohibitive about its implementation.

Mr Kenneth Ashigbey, Managing Director of GCGL, who supported the collection of the fees, said that called on the media to do more reading and involve professionals on some topical issues to give proper insights, and provide solutions to some social problems in the country.

Mr Yaw Boadu Ayeboafoh, who chaired the function, said ?we have agreed to PSB, but how to get there is the issue which has called the debates, adding that the law is not a new law but a revision.

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