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Monday, July 27, 2009

GBC & Metro went to bed, while Ghana, Obama, whole world were awake

The whole world geared up during the much publicised visit of President Obama. Both local and international media got their tools ready and hit the ground to report the speech to the world. According to Ministry of Information about 500 media outlets sought accreditation to let their viewers have a bite of Obama's speech. In the villages and cities of Ghana people hooked on to their radio and television sets ready to hear him speak, while in America, Europe, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East people counted on international media power house such as the BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera for a share of Obama's speech. Instead of watching him speak they got something that was neither a speech nor a movie.

The live broadcast that was seen on GBC, Aljazeera, BBC, CNN was dotted with poor sound and picture quality. The poor quality of pictures and sound raised serious concerns among the viewing public who complained bitterly for not been able to hear what Obama was saying. While visuals appeared pale, sound was hardly audible. "You could hardly establish coherence between words" a viewer lamented." Joy News, 2009

The wild celebration and jubilation that greeted Obama's visit and his hope to climax his visit with a policy speech was quenched by the poor transmission of the speech. Millions around the world especially in Ghana and Africa who hooked onto their radio and television sets were deeply disappointed too.

An ardent fan of Obama commented after the speech,” I was watching the speech on Aljazeera and all of a sudden I detected that the sound and picture quality was different from the programme I was watching prior to the speech. I thought something was wrong with Aljazeera so I changed the channel to BBC, there too the problem was there. So I hurriedly tuned in to CNN and there too there was a ticker saying that a technical problem has affected transmission. It was after visiting CNN that I realised what the whole world was going through at that moment. I was deeply disappointed because I could not make sense what he was saying".

"I am angry for not having the chance to hear him properly I feel ashamed because it is our international image and our reputation which is on the line" another viewer retorted. If someone should ask me, "Yes Obama came to Ghana but what did he say" I do not know what I am going to say because I neither saw his face properly nor could make sense what he was saying courtesy GBC and Metro TV" he lamented.

I am shocked by the aloofness and the indifference at which the media, journalists and pundits have treated the embarrassment. They have acted as if nothing has happened at all with the sector minister being allowed to go about her duty in a business as usual style. If what happened in Ghana had occured in say Britain where directors and sector ministers are grilled in Parliament and before Parliamentary committees for anything that affect their ministries, I know the directors of the TV stations and the sector minister would have found themselves in a very awkward position. But in a typical developing country fashion the whole embarrassment has been watered down and swept under the carpet by those who should be asking questions.

We are talking about the President of America speaking to the whole world and telling them what his policies are going to be and here we are as a nation unable to broadcast the speech live for the world to listen or watch. What a shame! What the world was asking was what were Ghanaians up to and what kind of a country is this that cannot even conduct live broadcast?

The anger and frustration expressed by viewers both locally and internationally is summarised by a viewer who put his displeasure on Twitter: "GBC, Metro TV went to bed, while Ghana, Obama, whole world were awake". There is no doubt that GBC and Metro failed Ghana and the world. Yes GBC and Metro TV failed Ghana.

In the end they failed the US president too because the world did not hear his words or see him neither could he also reach them the way he had wanted. The TV stations failed Ghana because it sent a wrong message to the world that we are incapable of organising event like this. We failed the international media who had come to cover the event as their loyal viewers could not make any sense of what President Obama was saying. It painted a very bad picture of our nation and her ability to organise events like World cup and has created the impression that we are indeed a poor developing country.

Instead of letting the world watch and listen to Obama speak and use his speech to show to the world how far we have come as a country, they watch and listened to something that can neither be said to be a speech nor drama.

GBC and Metro have traded accusations at each other after the poor show, with each claiming to be innocent. But we know the track record of GBC and Metro.

GBC for instance does not have experience of live broadcast as most of her programmes, news, interviews, and discussion are always pre-recorded so it came as no surprise when it could not live-televise Obama's speech. GBC was completely at as loss when it was asked to broadcast a programme of that magnitude. The poor sound and picture quality are the hallmark of GBC. I mean how many times have we watched a live programme on GBC without broadcaters having to apologise for poor sound, picture quality or break in transmission? Have Ghanaians ever watched a live football match on GBC without a hitch or a live programme without a break in transmission?

GBC always has an apology to make anytime there is a live event because of poor image and sound quality similar to the one witnessed during Obama's visit.

We still do not know all the facts as to what happened between GBC and Metro and it is important that we get to know all the facts in order to prevent a repeat in future.

We should not take matters of such national importance lightly because our credibility to organise international events is on the line. We cannot pay millions of cedis to directors for them to fail to deliver. They must be brought to face the people's court (Parliament) and explain why the tax payer should continue to fund their operations. If they fail to give reasonable explanation then they must either resign voluntarily or be sacked by whoever employed them. As a Ghanaian I cannot stand such an embarrassing show of ineffective and inefficient bureaucrats who are paid millions of cedis only for them to let the whole nation and the entire world down at the time when we needed them most.

I want the sector minister to tell Ghanaians the preparations her ministry made to prevent the episode that we witnessed from happening. And I want the directors and programme managers at GTV and Metro TV to tell Ghanaians and the whole world what brought about the failure. If they fail to do so then they must do the honourable thing by resigning from their posts for we are tired of inefficiencies and lack of performance in our public institutions.

Ghanaians are tired of poor service delivery on the part of state institutions like GTV. We deserve better than what they were offered and those responsible for the embarassment must account for their inactions and inefficiencies.

By Lord Aikins Adusei
Activist and anti-corruption campaigner

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