Notes from the Ghanaman File: Ghana’s Media soldiering on, inspite of the challenges

Another opportunity came to celebrate the media and Journalists in Ghana and across the globe last week Wednesday. The whole world, except dictatorial leaders and terrorist groups seem to be in agreement of the role of the media and urge on media practitioners to play their major assignment of not only informing and educating the populace but to be the mirror and watch dogs of society to be a check on public office holders. Ghana is touted to have the second most effective and unfettered media on the continent and 26th in the world. Let’s give the Ghanaian media and the practitioners  three cheers! This speaks volumes of our growing democracy and the tolerance of the political leadership since the post-Jerry Rawlings era. From Mr J A Kufour’s time when the criminal libel law was expunged from our books through the late Professor Mills’ leadership and John Mahama’s reign, the media in Ghana has been loosed gradually till even now some concerns have come up about its negative consequences. I granted some interviews in which I expressed my own position on our media. Yes, we have come a very long way from the days when some of our compatriots went to jail. Currently, with almost 400 radio stations operating nation-wide, over 50 TV channels and more than 100 newspapers, we can be proud that our media has grown. But can we say the same of the quality of the content? I doubt very much. How come our TV stations have re-colonized us by bombarding us with Indian and South American soap operas? One would have thought that, with more tertiary or University faculties available to train journalists and professionals for media practice, consumers would be served well packaged news bulletins but sad to say, we have several radio stations and in particular the vernacular stations treating the news as comedy and often the import of the stories completely lost on the listeners. There are occasions when News Anchors pause to share their views on particular stories! Wrong use of words and expressions are common on radio and TV and sometimes the quality of newspaper reportage too leave much to be desired. My observations show that most media houses are poorly resourced and only a few can afford quality staff and pay them well. My good friend the President of the GJA, Mr Affail Monney thinks Ghanaian journalists are poorly paid and so unionizing the GJA is the way out. But the truth is that, most of the stations are struggling and probably still exist just for the pride of the owners than for business prudence. So how can they afford to employ quality professionals and pay them well? I have had conversations with some media owners who have recruited staff from funeral grounds because they found them eloquent in the local language. Having picked such caliber of people the next logical step would have been the training and re-training of the staff, but no way! I have heard some radio station owners for instance saying that training is just waste of resources because the staff could be poached by other stations any time. So paying them even slave wages becomes a privilege to these practitioners. It leaves these poor guys with only a few options. They go after every ‘solicious’ assignments or programmes for what they can get in envelops or they take political stands and feed off the politicians by doing their dirty jobs of propaganda, defaming their opponents with outright fabrication of lies. With such scenarios, how can we talk of quality? This can be linked to the issue of regulation. The National Media Commission (NMC) doesn’t seem to have both the legal and financial muscles to deal with poor contents and clear breaches of journalistic ethics. Not all journalists and media practitioners are members of the GJA so how can they check them when they go wrong? It appears that no one watches over the watchman. We can go on and on with the issues but can conclude that the citizens have the opportunities to share their views on local and national matters and that is what makes the media the fourth estate of the realm and that is what the global community is proud about and all of us must be proud of. Let the NMC and its collaborators like GIBA, PRINPAG and GJA work together to improve the quality of journalism in Ghana and get appropriate rewards for the media practitioners.

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By Kojo Ackaah-Kwarteng, Head of Station,Onua 95.1 ]]>