The Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA) has gone to the High Court to challenge the Ministry of Communication and Digitalisation’s decision to take Television Channel fees from its members.
GIBA is praying to the court for a declaration that the decision of the Ministry to take established fees for contribution link service be declared null and void as the said fees did not have any Parliamentary approval.
The Association is also praying the court declares null and void the authority granted K-Net Limited by the Ministry to disconnect members that did not pay for the fees.
Additionally, GIBA is seeking an order quashing the Ministry’s decision authorising the disconnection of broadcasters from the Digital Terrestrial Transmission (DTT) platform account for non-payment of fees charged for contribution link services and Television Channels fees.
GBA said in 2006, the government of Ghana signed the Geneva 2006 (GE 06) Agreement of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), which agreement established the Digital Terrestrial Broadcasting Band 174-230 MH2 and 470-862 MH2 at the Regional Telecommunications Conference.
According to GIBA, the essence of the agreement was to ensure that signatory countries including Ghana, changed from the old way of transmitting television broadcast signals known as analogue to the new digital technology known as Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) by June 2015.
It said the transmission from analogue to digital broadcasting was called the Digital Migration.
GIBA held that as part of Digital Migration, it was the government that sponsored and built what was now the DTT Transmission platform designed to receive, host and transmit all Television content from all authorised Free to Air (FTA) broadcasters, including that of GIBA members.
“Upon the completion of the DTT Transmission platform, the Ministry carried out the hosting of all broadcasters on the said DTT Transmission platforms pursuant to the arrangement made between the two defendants (the Attorney General and K-Net Limited)”.
In 2020, K-Net Limited served notices through a letter of the fees it had been tasked to charge members of the association on the DTT transmission platform, the Association said.
The Association said K-Net Limited went ahead to demand payment from broadcasters and indicated that members who failed to pay the said fees would not be able to send any content to users.
GIBA said K-NET went ahead and disconnected the broadcasters.
According to GIBA per the migration process, all broadcasters on the DTT Transmission platform, were to apply and obtain specific spectrum from the NCA under the law.
Subsequently, the NCA issued what was known as Digital Replacement Authorisation to all analogue FTA leverage broadcasters.
Per the condition of Digital Broadcasting Authorisation issued by the NCA, members of GIBA were required to make their programmes available in digital form to the National DTT.
GIBA held that in the year 2016, the government offered by way of support procured the installation of Radio Links equipment free of charge to the existing analogue broadcasters, who were about 15 stations at the time.
When K-NET Limited was challenged over its actions, it said it was the Minister of Communications and Digitalisation, who by a letter mandated it to charge and collect the fees, the Association said.
It said the Minister ordered the disconnection of any broadcaster that declined to pay the fees charged.
According to GIBA, it was unaware of such an arrangement and engagement by K-NET Limited.
“The decision to establish the fees by the Ministry was unreasonable and the decision to disconnect broadcasters if one refuses to pay was not backed by law and same amounted to abuse of the discretionary powers.
” The decision of the Ministry establishing the TV Channel hosting fee for broadcasting being hosted on the National DTT Transmission platform without Parliamentary approval or any legal basis is unlawful and, therefore, void,” the statement of claim said.