NCA to court over DTT Conditional Access policy

Ghana’s telecoms regulator, the National Communication Authority (NCA), has been hauled before the Supreme Court of Ghana over its decision to introduce Conditional Access for Free-to –Air TV broadcast following the revision of its policy on the transition from analogue to digital television in 2019.

Members of the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA) who are not happy with the NCA’s new minimum requirements, have filed a writ at the country’s Supreme Court suing the regulator and the Attorney General’s Department claiming  that the Conditional Access for Free-to-Air-TV broadcast is a breach of the right to free press enshrined in the country’s constitution.

In 2019, the National Communications Authority revised its policy on the transition from analogue to digital television which witnessed the introduction of new policies including Digital Access Fee (DAF) to replace the existing TV Licensing fee for TV receivers imposed by the Television Licensing Decree, 19966 (N.L.C.D.89), the requirement of Conditional Access (CA) and middleware technology for the collection of DAF.

Talking about middleware technology, the NCA noted that “The additional features are necessary to support the robust and secure collection of Digital Access Fee (DAF) and support the future provision of value added service (VAS) such as Audience Measurement (AM), Internet Protocol (IP) Hybrid functionality i.e. Over the Top (OTT) Video on Demand (DoM) services and an Electronic Program Guide (EPG)”.

But the group believes that the new Conditional Access policy contained in the new Minimum Requirements for Reception of Digital Terrestrial and Satellite Television Services from the National Television Network, if allowed to be implemented by the NCA will put an unnecessary restraint on the establishment and operation of private media since the policy decision will require that Free-to-Air Services are encrypted and made available only to viewers who have paid the DAF.

Per the writ filed at the Supreme Court, GIBA wants the declaration that the blockage of media content of Free-To-Air broadcasters through the use of the Conditional Access System introduced by the NCA is unconstitutional as same constitutes an unreasonable and unnecessary abridgement of the freedom of the media contained in Article 21(a) and 162 (1) of the 1992 Constitution.

It’s also seeking an order directed at the NCA to remove from the Minimum Requirements for Reception of Digital Terrestrial and Satellite Television Services, any system in the nature of Conditional Access that encrypts or blocks the content of Free-To-Air television channels from being received.

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