I don’t intend to break your spirit—but to be frank, Ghana is a hell of a joke, most times.
I live in the United Kingdom and as such, I sit at a good corner to evaluate the soon to commence payment of TV Licence fee in Ghana, a country where our TV stations are full of chaff and countless advertisements.
I pay about £12 a month as TV Licence fee out here and this goes to the BBC, which does not run any advertisements—even that, I hate to pay it and I will come back to discussing this.
The National Media Commission (NMC) in Ghana has announced new television licensing fees which will come into force from Friday, August 21. The new fees means, the fee for domestic owners of television has been increased from GH¢30 to GH¢36 per annum for one television set but GH¢60 for two or more.
Per reports, the Chairman of the Commission, Ambassador Kabral Blay Amihere has mentioned that, Ghana’s fee for domestic owners is inadequate in relation to fees charged elsewhere. He cited that the new fee amounts to €6, which is wee when compared to €31 (in South Africa), €119 (in France), €194 (in the UK), €204 (in Germany) and €292 (in Switzerland).
Of course the Chairman of the Commission is right about the fees in Ghana being insignificant, compared to other countries—but what his spectacle blocks his eyes from seeing is the fact that, Ghanaians are not necessary worried about the amount but the anger rest on the question; why must they pay out any TV Licence fee at all?
Once again, those in power are going to rip-off ordinary Ghanaians with this absurd TV Licence fees and I will explain to you why this is a complete cheat, nothing like what is being practiced in the UK, the foundation-head of many of the global TV Licence schemes.
In the UK, TV Licence fee goes to the BBC and its independent subsidiaries—so that the corporation can operate with enough funds, unbiased and free from political manipulation, as well as corporate undue influences.
For this reason, the BBC does not run any advertisements—and therefore, people living in the UK pay TV Licence fees to keep the BBC in operation. The BBC also sells out self-produced programmes and some of its valued broadcast to interested parties across the globe for huge sums of money.
According to the BBC’s 2013/14 Annual Report, the BBC’s total income was £5 billion, broken down as follows:
-£3,726.1 million in licence fees collected from householders.
-£1,023.2 million from the BBC’s Commercial Businesses.
-£244.6 million from government grants, of which £238.5 million is from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for the BBC World Service.
£72.1 million from other income, such as rental collections and royalties from overseas broadcasts of programming.
When it comes to Ghana, it has been explained by Ambassador Kabral Blay Amihere that, the TV Licence fees will be shared in percentage terms among Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC), 72%, Ghana Independent Broadcasting Association (GIBA), 15%, National Media Commission (NMC), 4%, Media Development Fund, 4%, Films Fund, 2% and Management of TV Licence Fee (GBC), 3%.
Let me point it out to you that, Ghana Independent Broadcasting Association (GIBA) which will receive 15% of the TV Licence fee is made up of TV3, UTV, Viasat 1 and all the private TV stations, selling advertisements and making their own money.
Now, do you spot the nonsense?
Why must citizens of Ghana pay for someone to run his or her own private TV business? But then, the reason is, these private TV operators stood up against the initial attempt by GBC to bring back TV Licence fee—so as a way to get their support, the government has included them in the beneficiary pot. We are giving you 15% so come and support us—and it has worked, they are all backing the government’s rip-off scheme now.
This is the sort people and businesses we have in Ghana; something is only wrong if they are not benefiting from it—pull them in there as beneficiaries and they will start saying with pride, it is all right.
Now, let’s compare the BBC case to the GBC—because aside the Ghana Independent Broadcasting Association (GIBA), the GBC also runs countless advertisements and has various corporate sponsors, so the GBC is more of a private business than a national asset. It does not serve Ghanaians in any peculiar way, except to make money for itself—so why must Ghanaians pay for its operations?
Worst of it all is that, most Ghanaians I have spoken to do not even watch GTV or do not have any interest in any broadcast from the GBC—for the obvious fact; GBC programmes are not worth your time. Yet, GBC (GTV and the various GBC radio stations) charges the most for advertisement slots.
Just visit the website of the GBC and you will see that it’s full of advertisements while the BBC does not even run a single ad on any of its numerous online platforms.
If all the money the GBC is charging from advertisers and sponsors is not enough to run it—then why don’t they start selling their own quality programmes for cash, just like the BBC does to support its almost private business? In fact, mentioning the GBC and quality programmes in one sentence fits the world box of ‘oxymorons’.
The legitimate rationale behind TV Licence fee is to guarantee the independent of a national media—and free it operations from corporate sponsorship schemes and advertisements. Obviously, the GBC does not come close to this box— TV3 and the other private businesses do not also qualify, yet because Ghanaians are regarded as ‘big time fools’ by our leaders, we are being forced to pay TV Licence fee by law.
In the UK, I hate to TV Licence fee because I hardly watch live TV, especially the BBC channels— but then, the justification for the fee is legitimate; if you have a TV set, you have to pay since there is no plausible means to determine who is watching what.
Even that, I listen to BBC radio 4 a lot so I have to pay. However, I side with those who say “the UK licence fee needs to be scrapped—because in an age of multi stream, multi-channel availability, an obligation to pay a licence fee is no longer appropriate.”
When it comes to Ghana, this TV Licence fee law is deeply unjust and for me, I would like to see Ghanaians back home kick against this—they don’t have to pay a pessewa to anyone.
Note that, private broadcasters like the ITV and the several others which run their own advertisements and sponsorship schemes do not get a dime out of UK’s TV Licence fee scheme.
From Saint Augustine to the Civil Rights Movements, we’ve always been re-informed that, “unjust law is no law at all”—and this is one of those unjust laws.
There is no electricity to watch TV—and yet you will have to pay TV Licence fee when you cannot watch the TV, even if you want to.