The Chairman of the National Media Commission (NMC), Nana Kwasi Gyan-Appenteng, has called for a review of the membership of the commission in order to make it more relevant to the current media landscape.
He said although the commission was made up of 18 part-time members drawn from both state and non-state institutions, some of the members did not have “even the faintest relationship with or knowledge of the media”.
“What is worse, there is no apparent logic for the selection of the constituent bodies. If there was any such logic in the conditions of the late 1980s, today we must review this membership to make it relevant to the current media landscape,” he stated.
Nana Gyan-Appenteng, who was delivering the third Bannerman Lecture of the African University College of Communications (AUCC) last Tuesday, said: "In my view, the biggest obstacle comes from the very foundations of the commission in the Constitution and the NMC Law.”
The lecture was, among others, meant to highlight the legacy of one of the media veterans in Ghana, the late Charles Banmerman, who was a protagonist of using the media for public good.
Currently, the 18-member commission is made up of two representatives of the President, three representatives of Parliament and two representatives of the Ghana Journalists Association.
Also on the commission are a representative each of the Private Newspaper Publishers Association of Ghana, Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association of Ghana, the Trades Union Congress, Christian religious groups and Muslim religious groups.
The rest are a representative each from the Ghana Bar Association, Journalism training institutions, libraries and Association of Writers, advertisers and the Institute of Public Relations, the Ghana National Association of Teachers and women’s groups nominated by Parliament.
Broken down system
Nana Gyan-Appenteng, who spoke on the topic: "Mainstream media, social media and public opinion: Which way for development?", said the public often complained about the NMC's lack of teeth to sanction erring media and journalists but stated that it was the least of the many obstacles faced by the NMC in carrying out its mandate.
He pointed out that one major issue that had compounded the challenges facing the commission was the lack of selection requirement for the people nominated to serve on the commission.
"Given this situation, it would not be surprising for some associations to send, as its representatives to the NMC, a favourite son or daughter or someone who deserves a reward for services that have nothing to do with the media.
"Furthermore, the members, described as part-time, tend to be very busy people in their other lives," he added.
Consequently, he said, some members of the NMC had been unable to attend meetings all year and disclosed that the committee system of the NMC had broken down completely due to the failure of members to attend meetings.
"This is not an indictment on the members of the NMC.
We all recognise that the system itself is inadequate for today's purposes," he stressed.
Talking about the other challenges facing the NMC, he said the commission was ill-equipped, woefully under-funded and lacked the required people and structure to motivate the staff.
"In fact, there is no establishment to speak of, and in those circumstances there is no prospect of promotion for any staff. At this point, not even the mere establishment of the secretariat will save the commission from becoming completely dysfunctional.
"There is the need for a fundamental re-think of the regulatory framework for today's media landscape. Tinkering at the edges will not be good enough," he cautioned.
Lack of recognition
He mentioned what he referred to as an obvious lack of recognition of the NMC by other state machinery as the "worst obstacle".
In his view, in spite of the high premium placed on the media and the commission by the Constitution, the Executive and the Legislative arms of government barely recognised the important role of the NMC or its existence.
He said in spite of the Constitution unambiguously placing the state-owned media under the NMC, "every Minister of Information comes to office claiming the state-owned media as institutions under him”.
"It has taken subtle and unsubtle reminders to have the ministers understand what the Constitution says.
I think while the Constitution has sought to liberate the state-owned media from governmental control, the residual authorisation in our politics is mounting a fierce resistance," he contended.