The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) is urging the communications ministry to be transparent in how it rolls out the country's digital migration program.
Executive Director of the Foundation Suleiman Braimah says the ministry's engagement with relevant players in the communications sector has so far been unsatisfactory.
Speaking to Samson Lardy Anyenini on Joy FM/MultiTV’s Newsfile programme on Saturday, he raised concerns over the unequal playing field he believes government is creating by granting tax waivers to StarTimes to bring in their equipment.
“We have a situation where a tax waiver is granted to a company that is apparently a competitor operating in the country’s media space. They operate Max TV which is a cable TV,” he noted.
He added: “it important to establish that it is not as though we are talking about a new entity in the country but one that is in competition with other local players. And this is unfair.”
His call comes in the wake of what is becoming an unending disagreement between government and the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA).
The stalemate between the two is over what role Chinese TV operator StarTimes will be playing in the enhancement of the country’s digital television space.
The independent broadcasters in a press release asserted that the deal government is entering into with the Chinese TV operator amounts to ceding the country’s broadcasting space.
“If StarTimes is allowed to control both Ghana’s only digital television infrastructure and the satellite space in the name of digital migration, Ghana would have virtually submitted its broadcast space to Chinese control and content,” GIBA said in the release.
However, speaking on the matter for the first time on the show, Communications minister, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful said GIBA's concerns are simply misplaced.
“They [GIBA] are not financing this process and they cannot sit there and dictate what government does in this process,” she said.
The minister rubbished GIBA’s arguments saying she is at a loss what the Association is demanding.
“Is it a question of not getting timely responses to correspondence that has been sent to the ministry? Or is it as has been put out in that extensive alarmist publication by GIBA that the Communications Ministry is handing over the country’s Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) infrastructure to StarTimes to manage?” Mr Ekuful queried.
But Mr Braimah believes the ministry would have a smoother roll-out if it opens up.
He said, “if there is one thing that is clear, it is the fact that there hasn’t been transparency or consensus building. Going forward, I will appeal to the ministry that it is important to engage stakeholders for them to at all times know what the decisions and plans are so they can well position themselves.”
Commenting on the issue, Ningo Prampram legislator Sam George said he was disappointed that Mrs Owusu-Ekuful who is paid with Ghanaian taxpayers’ money is fronting for a Chinese company.
“Listening to the minister, I had a wrenching feeling in my stomach, I asked myself why my minister is not speaking for me as a Ghanaian but rather protecting Chinese interest,” he said.
He said government giving “sweetheart deals to China” at the neglect of local business who pay taxes is unfair.
Mr George said the minister’s description of GIBA’s concerns as “lots of noises” is “most disrespectful” advising that “the least you can do is give such concerns a listening ear.”