There are currently 117 television stations in Ghana. Or rather, to put it in perspective, 117 entities have been authorised by the National Communications Authority to operate television stations.
This figure covers up to the second quarter of 2017. Just a little over half of that number is on air, however.
My checks on the website of the NCA revealed that as of June 2017, the regulator had “given frequency authorizations to 117 Television Broadcasting Stations in Ghana.” By contrast, there were 93 authorisations at the end of quarter four 2016.
A breakdown of the types of authorisations shows 21 Analogue Terrestrial Television, one Digital Terrestrial Pay Television (Service only), five Digital Terrestrial Pay Television (Service and Frequency), 23 Digital Terrestrial Free-To-Air Television Programme Channel (Nationwide Coverage) and four Digital Terrestrial Free-To-Air Television Programme Channel (Regional Coverage).
Others are seven Satellite Television Broadcasting (Pay TV Direct-To-Home Bouquet), eight Satellite Television Broadcasting (Free-To-Air Direct-To-Home Bouquet), 47 Satellite Television Broadcasting (Free-To-Air Direct-To-Home Single Channel) and one Digital Cable Television.
According to the NCA, by the end of June 2017 there were 51 of the authorised stations on air. Among the stations with Free-to-Air authorizations are GTV, TV3, Viasat1 (Kwese), GhOne, TV Africa, Net2, ETV, Top TV, UTV, Light TV, Coastal TV, Kantanka TV and CTV.
According to the NCA, the Digital Terrestrial Free-To-Air Television Programme Channel (Nationwide Coverage) includes some of the aforementioned and then other such as TV?XYZ, Angel TV, Kessben TV and Max TV.
Let me say before moving on that many of these stations pirate content from foreign companies to show and this hasn’t given Ghana any good name in the content production, marketing and distribution network.
The other authorisations have their channels as well and you can check from the website of the NCA to satisfy yourself, if you so wish.
Although it is possible the figures could change when the NCA updates the list at the end of quarter four, it is worthwhile to note that these are huge figures.
Fifty-one television stations on air in any form at all means there is the need to ensure that there is enough content to go round. We all know content is king, and content is expensive, which is why there is the need to look at how to get this content for an audience that is ready to consume.
It must be noted that the fact that are 51 television stations (note, we meant stations not channels) on air does mean there are only that number which content are consumed by the audience in the geographical space of Ghana.
This modern era tells us that the greatest competition for television in the small screen and content has to be fluid enough to translate to that platform as well. Simply put, television stations are competing with themselves and then with mobile as well.
We have, over the years, packed foreign content onto our channels, making it impossible for younger people with great ideas for local content to thrive.
Although there seems to be a renewed fervour to compel television stations, by policy to retain some 70 percent of their content for local productions it looks like we’ll be far from that materializing.
At a recent content conference we attended last month in South Africa, there were interesting conversations about how to tell the African story through television, film and documentaries and many of the participants at different fora conceded that the African story is not being told right or by the right people.
However, BBC Africa’s Solomon Mugera, who addressed one of the sessions noted erroneous it could be to say something is African as there are different variations and nuances to the cultures of the different countries and regions.
His point, per my understanding, was that there is the need to pay attention to the needs of the specific region or country when creating, packaging and delivering content to an audience.
One such example is BBC Pidgin which is targeted at West Africa. It would be suicidal for the Beeb to target any other part of Africa with such content as they would not understand anything being said or won’t understand anything they read.
So here we are with so many television stations, so many other platforms and devices where we consume some of the content that is thrown at us, mostly from foreign lands.
It is important that we arrest this situation by providing our own content for our own consumption.
I think it would be impossible, given the globalized world as we have it now, to say that a country or a continent or region would ban content from other markets.
There is however something that could be done about it and that is to have a mix of a sort of both. The 70 percent to 30 percent being bandied may be a stretch at the beginning, but it sure would be practical in the long run.
The telenovelas are so many on the many channels that are on air and there is the need to ensure that we streamline their showing.
We shouldn’t stop anybody from showing what they desire, but we could make it more expensive for them to do so.
Some have argued that an approach such as that which we are talking about now would end up being a disincentive as it would stifle creativity and won’t bring out the best in people as they would not face strict competition from others.
Fair argument and yet there is the need for us to try and see how it goes. If we end up getting the short end of the stick, at least we know we tried. If we end up a country that has given opportunity to its creative people to have greater opportunity to show their work, even better.
So yes, we have given authorization to 117 television stations and 51 of same are on air, but what leverage are we giving for content produced locally to air on these channels.
I heard recently that Yvonne Nelson has been calling on the authorities to give greater support to local production and I thought though a demonstration was not the way to go, that conversation has got to be had and NOW!