“Ghana’s media needs help, Ghana’s media needs help and urgently too.”
“Ghana’s media needs help, Ghana’s media needs help and urgently too” These were the words of the Head of the Department of Communications Studies of the University of Ghana, Dr Abena A. Yeboah-Banin, during the launch of the first-ever report of the State of the Ghanaian Media last week.
A clarion call from the ‘lead communication scholar’ in the country, (if you please). From where she sits this cannot be dismissed but rather be taken seriously and worked on, as a country, to provide the required help with what the Ghanaian media needs.
According to Dr Yeboah-Banin, the project forms part of the Unit’s efforts to lead the way in identifying fault lines in Ghana’s media, and proffering solutions to them.
The launch of the report was one of the Ghanaian media industry’s major stride as it has not only served as an eye opener but importantly provided avenues to tackle the lapses within the media landscape.
Key initiators of the State of the Ghanaian Media Project (SGMP) which produced the report namely the Department of Communication Studies of the University of Ghana and the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) need to be highly commended. Though long overdue, the report is a very good start in helping to address the weaknesses in the nation’s media industry.
It is also refreshing to note that the SGMP involves conducting a series of research projects to assess how the Ghanaian media is faring on different indicators and what needs to be done to improve it. Meaning it will not be a nine-day wonder.
Aspects covered included working conditions in media, media ownership, journalists’ safety, the legal regulatory environment, financial viability, and capacity building among others.
As per the findings of the study, “although journalists had a clear understanding of their position in society and their roles as watchdogs, there was a disconnection between role conception and performance.”
Yes, this is because “Journalism, we say, is “the activity of gathering, assessing, creating, and presenting news and information.” Over the years, it has been revealed that the more democratic a society is, the more news and information it tends to have.
This is not to say there is no news or fewer news items in undemocratic societies, but there is much more freedom of news gathering and dissemination within democratic settings than in undemocratic ones.
News production is chiefly based on the personal ideology of the news carrier. Simply put, every journalist is an ideological being and this apparently has a significant influence on the delivery of output.
“Each journalistic form and style as well as editorial and production policies use different techniques and writes for different purposes and audiences. These bring the diverse means of media practice which at times, unfortunately, results in mediocrity.
With the quality of journalism, one would think of how we distinguish between an average news story and an enthralling news piece. How knowledgeable is the journalist on the subject matter he is engaged in? How does he apply his professional investigative skills? How effectively and efficiently does the journalist communicate to society? What is the level of confidence of the journalist in the dissemination of the information without fear or favour? Is the journalist applying the code of ethics in his profession?
All these, coming under the quality of journalism contribute immensely towards the holistic measure of the Ghanaian media. This is because the quality or otherwise of the journalism piece is highly a factor to create issues, unfortunate or otherwise for the journalist and the entire nation thereby having a negative effect national media rating.
In Ghana today, media practice is gradually going down the hills. According to the Ghana Media Commission Chairman, Yaw Boadu Ayeboafo, as he noted at the launch of a National Media Capacity Enhancement Programme in Kumasi last year. The Commission, according to him, receives more adverse reports among media outputs these days than before. This and other similar statements by some key stakeholders connote the downward trend of media outputs in the country.
The good, bad, and ugly are all experienced in the Ghanaian media landscape. The decline in the industry has been the talking point these days than the good side. The argument is that the negative side is overshadowing the positive side. (I have my own opinion, anyway) but whatever it is, we possibly need all to be right.
We see what we see in the Ghanaian media because precautions were not adhered to when we decided to liberalise the media.
The true freedom and extensive vibrancy of the media really occurred when in May 1994 the forcible closure and seizure of Radio Eye, which raised so much concern around the globe, compelled the then government to have a second look at media freedom.
This paved the way for the flooding of radio stations in the country, seeing the establishment of Joy FM in July 1995 as the first private radio station in the country. Since then, till now, Ghana has had 340 radio stations, 128 television stations and 12 regular newspapers, depicting the vast improvement in the media landscape, by way of expansion.
The launch of the report is a wake-up call to all stakeholders in the industry, especially regulators, to put in place pragmatic policies to help address the situation. This is because none of the seven key findings in the research brought out any positivity on the media landscape in the country. Truth be told, there were other important aspects of the media such as the use of language, and professionalism that were not highlighted in the report. Of course, not all could be addressed at a go.
Two days into the launch of the report, four major media stakeholders in the country namely the Ghana Journalists Association, (GJA), the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA), and the Private Newspaper Publishers Association (PRINPAG) held a joint press conference and called on President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to consider a repeal of repressive sections of the Electronic Communications Act and the Criminal and Other Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29) being weaponised to muzzle free speech and media freedom in the country.
The leaders of the four institutions lamented on the lack of measures in the country to ensure the safety of the Ghanaian journalist, the paramount issue raised in the State of the Media in Ghana report.
According to Reporters Without Borders, the safety of journalists in the country has to a large extent, deteriorated in recent years. What caused this? I am not in any way supporting recalcitrant people who go out for journalists they do not agree with. No, but if the journalists would work professionally and produce quality news outlets for the populace, harassment and molestation of the journalists would be minimised or perhaps ended.
As stated at the launch, “we also need professional journalists, like those that the University of Ghana is teaching each year. Professional journalists need to be treated fairly, trained well, and informed about legal restrictions like libel laws and the role of ethics in modern journalism. Part of supporting professional journalism also means supporting appropriate pay for those reporters, including the women working in newsrooms here in Ghana and around the world.”
Ghana’s media is about our future and everything possible must be done to make practitioners, owners and managers do it right.
BY NANA SIFA TWUM (PHD)