Mr Yaw Boadu Ayeboafo, the Chairman of the National Media Commission (NMC), has called for additional powers and resources for the Commission to enable it to deliver effectively on its mandate.
The NMC in its current form did not have the powers to close down an errant radio or television station because it had not been given the enablement to crack the whip, he said.
“One of the unfortunate developments is when people misread that provision in the Constitution, which says that: the NMC shall take all appropriate measures to ensure the highest journalistic standards and professionalism in the media – and the assumption is that the Commission can do anything to bring about this…. but that is wrong,” he said.
“It is more painful when you hear MPs resonating this kind of misunderstanding of the provisions of the law.”
Mr Ayeboafo made the remarks at a dialogue, facilitated by the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs for the Expanded Leadership of Parliament, and the National Media Commission, in Accra.
It is to help deepen the relationship between the NMC and the Legislature and to enable the Commission to give Parliament first hand understanding of its workings.
It is also to seek support from the Legislature in terms of helping to empower the Commission with additional powers to carry out its duties.
Mr Ayeboafo cited the murder of an eleven-year-old boy allegedly committed by two teenagers from Kosoa, whose action was attributed to a programme they watched on television.
“People then turned to the NMC, lambasting it for not closing that TV station, when in fact the Commission does not have the power and authority to close it down,” he said.
“Many of the people who speak this way are of the thinking that the NMC is not cracking the whip but nobody has given the whip to the NMC to crack…..This is a country of rule of law and anything we do must be founded on law.”
“When the Commission has not been empowered to close down a radio station that has created some mishap, which people are incensed about and everybody is castigating the NMC for not doing its job…. then that cannot be said to be fair.”
Mr Ayeboafo explained that the NMC derived its powers from the law that set it up, which says, among other things, that the Commission can order the retraction of a story, an apology, publication of a rejoinder or make reference to a professional body over the conduct of a member for disciplinary purposes, and beyond that the NMC could not do much.
Parliament had the largest representative on the NMC and it was not for nothing that the Legislature was given the pride of place in terms of the composition on the 18-member Commission, he said.
He, therefore, charged Parliament to ensure that its concerns, interests and contributions to the NMC empowers the commission to work effectively.
Mr Ahmed Ibrahim, the Deputy Minority Whip, who represented the Minority Leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, said the allocation of frequencies to media houses must be one of the functions of the NMC.
He bemoaned the current situation where the Ministry of Communication, through the National Communication Authority (NCA), allocates frequencies, which could be manipulated by the executive for its parochial political interests.
He said if the NCA’s revocation of frequencies of 130 radio stations was done by an independent body like the NMC there would not have been much uproar in the country like what greeted the NCA’s exercise.
Mr George Sarpong, the Executive Secretary of the NMC, speaking on the topic: “The National Media Commission: Where Are We” explained that the NMC, unlike other constitutional bodies, did not have an existing institution to inherit from, hence started from zero.
He said the Commission, right from the beginning, did not have proper setup, offices, regulatory professionals, and conditions of service, resulting in its struggles over the years.
He, therefore, called for the amendment of the NMC Act to empower it to enforce its mandate.