Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Ghana Broadcasting and Local Programme Production

Everybody wants to be first and everybody wants it now. Nigeria, with the help of Overseas-Rediffusion, was the first country in Africa to install a television service, in October 1959. Just in time for the 1960 Olympic Games. Specifically, to service ex-pats, educate the masses and spread government propaganda. Also, it was a genuine source of pride for one of the (then) poorest nations to be the first to have a television service, but at what cost? 

“In 1975 the average production cost per hour BBC was $30k; it was not unusual for an hour long BBC or ITV for an hour-long drama to cost $100K. Compare that with the estimated production cost for Nigeria for local production of $150 per hour (not 150k just 150) and we can see that cost wise it was cheaper for Nigeria to buy an hour of American programming at $60 per hour. It wasn't just the cost that was prohibitive but a lack of expertise. Yes engineers may have been trained abroad but there was no such training for actors, writers, producers, directors and so on.” - 'Broadcasting in the Third World' by Elihu Katz and George Wedell. Chapter 5 programming patterns.

The inauguration of Nigeria’s television service was rushed, not properly orchestrated or implemented and relied heavily on imported TV material. 65% of the nation’s television output was imported and 35% was locally produced, despite initial pledges. However, it was the first Television service in Africa. Ghana, on the other hand, took longer but was always efficient. Originally known as GBC TV (Ghana Broadcasting Corporation), GTV (Ghana Today Television) is the national public broadcaster of Ghana and commenced broadcasts on the 31st of July 1965 with the help of a Canadian consortium. They remained the sole television broadcaster till the 1990s. Consequently, GTV is by far and away the dominant channel and has a 75% local programming quota but this seems to be mainly comprised of educational programming, the news and an over-emphasis on current affairs programmes in the main but also shows a significant number of foreign films.

 "The basic problem has been the financial cost in building local television systems on an economically sound foundation. Often, this is only possible by importing low-cost American productions. Films and television programs produced in the industrialized countries (especially the United States) are offered at dumping prices if you compare the cost of local productions. In most cases, the commercial and non-commercial television stations and networks extensively use these inexpensive imports. In Ghana, for example, an hour of Ghana-produced, television program cost between US$800 and $2,400. By contrast, American-produced television is offered to African countries at a cost of $130-150 per one half-hour. Along with the entertainment value, political and cultural attitudes and values are also being imported in what is known as cultural invasion, cultural levelling, cultural imperialism, or `picture tube imperialism."
"Will such an alleged cultural imperialism via TV hinder the creation of a national identity in African countries? This is feared by H.I. Schiller in his book Communication and American Empire. Referring to Friedrich List, a communications analyst, he calls for "cultural protectionism," which, like the trade protection of an earlier era, is said to have an educational function."
"This fear and caution, finds expression in the various mass media legislation that govern electronic media in most African countries. In Ghana, for instance, the Ghana Frequency and Control Board stipulates that the content of private TV transmission should have positive-bias ratio in favour of local production of 60:40. As of the late 1980s, foreign TV programs formed less than 20% of Ghanaian television. Other countries however, import at least 60% of their TV programs, most of which are aired during prime time."
"It is for the same logistical reasons that the state-owned GBC is stuck with one channel. The government had hoped to open another channel to solely air indigenous languages in the radio sector. This requires the provision of satellite technology to redistribute TV programs throughout the country. Currently, there is only one post and telecommunications microwave link available in the country and GBC requires digital control technology to introduce another channel. There is also a need for refurbish and rehabilitate the GBC before the country can look at a second channel."

In 1992, DWB reported, in issue 105 & 107 that Ghana had screened The Power of the Daleks in 1986, and that the missing serial had been destroyed in a fire in the Ghana TV film library had been destroyed in the fire of 23 May 1989. Later this was all revealed to be a hoax, apart from the fire which was a genuine event. More details and footage of the fire can be found here: Along with details of the countries actual showings of Doctor Who in 1965 and 1966.

Finally, in a Country that accepted so little in the way of imported programmes, it is hard to see that much could have been found here. Paul Vanezis (of the BBC Restoration Team) stated that: "'s unlikely that there is any material in Ghana, Uganda or Zimbabwe. However, nothing has been ruled out regarding them." It is hard to disagree with that statement. However, during an interview with JR Southall for Starburst magazine, Philip Morris (Head of TIEA) did mention he found an unspecified amount of ITV material there but didn't say whether it was missing or not. So there is still hope. Ghana did buy the first series of Z-Cars and Dr. Finlay's Book.

Ghana Broadcasting Corporation - Accra


National Archives file: DO 35/9466

'Broadcasting in the Third World' by Elihu Katz and George Wedell.