In Ho in the Volta Region some few days ago, the National Media Commission (NMC) held an orientation seminar to refresh the knowledge of its members to enable them to discharge their duties effectively.
The 18-member commission was taken through topics such as pillars of freedom, media monitoring, safety of journalists and broadcasting bill analysis.
Others were the broadcasting bill (history and politics), policy implementation of digital migration, the NMC (Act 449) - which model to follow?, media regulatory institutions: models, types of mandate, digital migration, and the NMC Act - operational analysis.
The seminar was organised in collaboration with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Foundation, a civil society organisation.
At the seminar, the Chairman of the NMC, Yaw Boadu-Ayeboafoh, raised very pertinent issues affecting the performance of the commission which needed to be addressed.
One of the issues that came to the fore was the fact that of all the bodies created under the 1992 Constitution, the NMC was the most resource-starved.
From the fact that all the commissioners are part-time, through to inadequate office space to low budgetary allocation, there is everything to confirm that whereas the spirit of the secretariat and the commissioners are willing and ready to perform and discharge their duties, the body is weak to do so.
The Daily Graphic finds this disclosure quite revealing, looking at the mandate of the NMC and its relevance to building a strong and vibrant democracy.
As the regulator, and for that matter the media watchdog, the NMC is critical to good governance, an independent media and freedom of expression, for which reason it must be well-oiled to function effectively.
Again, Mr Boadu-Ayeboafoh said the NMC needed support to set up a functional and useful website, explaining that a body that supervised the mass media must have all its activities at the disposal of the public at the click of the button.
It is unfortunate that the NMC does not have a reliable and dependable website. This unfortunate situation must not be allowed to continue, especially when the country has a very active media which need to be properly guided to ensure they practise responsible journalism.
We must boast a media commission that is effective enough to live up to its mandate, so that the rights guaranteed by the Constitution, including those of journalists, are protected.
The NMC Chairman also highlighted the need for legislative enhancement to ensure compliance with the commission’s decisions.
We believe that Parliament needs to consider amendments to the National Media Commission Act to give it more power to regulate the media landscape. We hold the view that it may be time to give the NMC more control.
The National Media Commission Act established the NMC to promote and ensure the freedom and independence of the media for mass communication and information.
It is plausible that in the thinking of the framers of the Constitution, we needed to facilitate media pluralism rather than control. However, having come to appreciate the gaps in regulation, the time has come for changes, which the Legislature will have to facilitate.
The NMC must be given that power and authority, and that can only come from Parliament. Otherwise, the commission cannot take on itself any obligation.
While we make a strong case for the NMC to be clothed with more legal powers and be well-resourced, it is also important that it looks at helping to set media standards by encouraging media houses to develop their in-house editorial policies that will guide their editorial decisions.
We believe that if professional values are firmly instilled in journalists and other media practitioners through training and capacity-building initiatives, the number of complaints concerning media excesses will reduce drastically.
Democracy thrives on media freedom and, therefore, an effective regulator that will guarantee that freedom to allow the media to operate is in the broader interest of democracy.