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Media Commission Accepts GBC Boss' Suspension

Dr Kwame Akuffo Anoff Ntow

Dr Kwame Akuffo Anoff Ntow

The National Media Commission (NMC) has affirmed the decision by the board of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC), asking its Director General, Dr. Akuffo Annoff-Ntow, to proceed on leave with immediate effect.

The decision last week sparked heated debate over whether or not the board has the capacity to ask Dr Annoff-Ntow to step aside in the first place.

Media rights groups like Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) and the Ghana Journalists’ Association (GJA) insisted that the board does not have the power to ask the Director-General to proceed on leave, but the NMC set the records straight yesterday, with a press release signed by Nana Kwasi Gyan-Apenteng, its chairman.

“The National Media Commission (NMC) has noted developments at the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) and has been in communication with all the parties in the current dispute,” the statement said, adding, “It is the understanding of the Commission that the Director-General was directed by the GBC board to proceed on leave. The reason given by the board was to enable it to investigate matters relating to the setting up of courts to prosecute TV licence defaulters.”

According to the statement, “The NMC recognizes the board’s authority to determine matters of leave relating to the Director-General. However, the Commission has directed the board to determine the matters before it and to report to the Commission within one month in order to inform NMC’s decisions relating to all the issues at stake.

“In the interim, the NMC has also asked the GBC board to appoint an acting Director-General from within the management of the corporation in place of the current arrangement of an Interim Management Committee (IMC).”

The Commission assured all parties and the public that “the NMC remains committed to insulating the state-owned media from governmental control. At the same time, the commission shall at all times ensure that proper corporate governance principles pertain in all the state-owned media.”

Last week, the GBC Board Chairman, Rev Prof. Emmanuel Addo-Obeng, said Dr. Anoff-Ntow had been asked to proceed on leave because of his poor handling of the Television Licence Fee issue.

Prof. Addo-Obeng, a former Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Coast, said the decision asking Dr. Anoff-Ntow to step aside was taken on Monday, January 15, adding that the regulator – NMC – had been officially notified about the decision.

He said the extent of time for the Director General to be on leave “will depend on consultation with NMC.”

“We are going to immediately engage NMC to discuss a whole lot of issues affecting GBC and the future of the state broadcaster,” the Board Chairman said on Radio Ghana operated by the GBC.

He further explained that one board member and two directors are supposed to steer the affairs of the corporation until the issues are ironed out.

“We have put an interim management committee in place with a board member and two directors of GBC to hold the fort while this consultation goes on,” claimed the chairman.

The Divisional Union Chairman of GBC, Michael Allotey, called for calm among the GBC staff, saying, “As a union we need to engage our people, urging them to take it calm because it is a board decision but we will meet properly to tell the world our position. I also take this opportunity to urge workers to remain calm.”

Mr Allotey added, “Except that sometimes it is challenging because the question is, after DG what next? GBC has a problem and it has to be solved. I think it is time the nation decides what to do with the national broadcaster. It is either they keep it as a private entity or we continue to keep on the focus as a national broadcaster.”

The request by Dr. Anoff-Ntow to the office of the Chief Justice to set up courts that will prosecute defaulters of TV Licence – which was eventually approved – sparked outrage in the country.

In the ensuing heat, the GBC Director-General kept shifting his position over what TV users were supposed to do.

Per Section 1(a) of the TV Licensing Act 1966 (NLCD 89), defaulters were expected to be prosecuted and when found guilty, were supposed to pay a fine or serve an imprisonment term not exceeding one year; but the GBC Board moved swiftly to stop the prosecution aspect under the Act.

The board urged the National Media Commission (NMC) to explore a more sustainable funding module for the GBC.