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Killing the game: Media ownership in Ghana by Kwame Adinkrah

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It is often contended that, like the firearm, the media is both a tool and a weapon; a tool because it functions as a means of communication, a weapon because it has the tendency to mislead and incite.

Experts say media set the stage by spreading animosity against ethnic gatherings in Rwanda that caused the Rwandan ethnic conflicts.

Ironically, in the context of acquiring a firearm many countries have put in place restrictive measures to assess the owner and the intended reason for its possession.

Over the years, Ghana has built a number of legislations to curtail and clip the citizens’ right to keep and bear arms. A person qualified to acquire firearm should be mentally sound, physically fit and must be of good character and without criminal traits or records.

However, same cannot be said when seeking an authorization to operate a radio spectrum in Ghana.

The National Communication Authority (NCA) is a government agency under the Ministry of Communication with the mandate to regulate spectrum for and on behalf of the people of Ghana.

The agency has an additional mandate to auction frequencies to companies to render services as corporate business entities to generate revenue and make profits.

Among the guidelines required by the NCA is the submission of Programming Philosophy to indicate the nature of programming the station intends to churn out.

This requirement alone, however, cannot exonerate potential investors to pursue political agenda or other dangerous interests.

Across the world, political organizations and leaders use and/or abuse media for their own political aspirations.

Similarly, media owners use their media to promote and disseminate their own political views, and exploit politicians to achieve their own (corporate) goals.  

Very recently, a renowned entrepreneur in Ghana, Dr. Sam Jonah in a speech to the Rotary Club indicated that “Our media landscape is so polarised and partisan.

There is hardly any objectivity because a lot of the media stations are owned by politicians whose interest is in swaying voters one way or the other. Independent media practice seems to have faded and journalism has become a conveyor belt for political propaganda, insults, and acrimony.”

Scholars, however, tend to find problems with all forms of media ownership.

According to Picard and Dal Zotto in 2016, private ownership is problematic because proprietors can use it for private interest; corporate ownership can put profit goals ahead of social goals; public service media can present limited choice and are prevented from pursuing political agendas; big companies can control content and markets; small companies cannot provide the proper range of quality and content, and they are weak in the face of pressures from powerful interests; foreign owners can bring in foreign influences that can affect national sovereignty; and domestic owners are often too close to domestic social and political power. Hence, all forms of ownership come with their own set of advantages and disadvantages.

It is, also, argued that the many of the complaints we have today in Ghana about ownership have nothing to do with ownership per se, rather the over commercialized nature of media in pursuit of economic rewards. Politically, to win and sustain political power.

Prof. Kwame Karikari, Executive Director of Media Foundation for West Africa has described as dangerous the situation where politicians were constantly owning media houses in Ghana and throwing ethics and professionalism to the wind. 

In his book “Les nouveaux chiens de garde,” Serge Halimiasks whether it is possible to imagine someone buying an instrument that offers the prospect of influence, but foregoing the chance of influencing the orientation of such an instrument?

The Ghanaian media is practically owned and controlled by politicians and entrepreneurs with political affiliationsThere is no ambiguity to that fact. On the corridors of NCA the rumours are rift that if you do not have strong political connection, you will not have a frequency. In other words, if you are not a member of an existing regime it is impossible for NCA to issue you a spectrum.

There is no conspiracy theory needed for the analysis of media deviations in Ghana today.

The traditional roles of radio or the media; to inform, educate and entertain have today become commercial tools auctioned to the highest bidder. These tenants are now utilized as weapons by politicians to incite a section of the populace, propagate their party views and create an atmosphere of uncertainty.

Radio is no longer exciting as it used to be in the 90s where the airways would be filled with good music, high quality presentation and matured news. Today, what we hear on radio could be likened to fragmented noise with unsubstantiated reports and vilification of people.

All radio morning shows have become political shows or politically induced shows. The shows have been crafted to propagate the views of political parties and avenues of setting political agenda.

Every social subject discussed on radio has its own political dimension; every policy is discussed along political lines. Sadly, some journalists are becoming more politicians than the politicians themselves.

But according to Professor Kwame Karikariradio today is as indispensable to the existence, cohesion and development of modem society as oxygen is to the survival of living beings.

It is therefore, imperative that there should be a concerted effort to properly regulate and protect the media space for posterity.

The National Media Commission is struggling on legal interpretation of its mandate to ensure highest journalistic standards.

The Chairman, Yaw Boadu-Ayeboafoh is on record to have said that the commission cannot regulate contents of media houses and that the commission can only go as far as the documented ethics that has no legal backing.

The Ghana Journalists Association is hanging on code of conducts for their members. A set of codes that is not a legal prerequisite of establishing a radio station.

The Ghana Independent Broadcasting Association is an association of independent broadcasters that can only appeal to members with sanctions not deterring enough to ban offenders from operating.

The Ghanaian media space has become exclusively profit generating enterprise and highly politicized in direct contrast with journalistic requirements of objectivity and diversity.

Stricter laws and regulations, monitoring and sanctions from the NCA and NMC can save the media space.

 

Strictly Personal

Don’t cry for Mandela’s party; ANC’s poll loss is self-inflicted, By Jenerali Ulimwengu

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There is losing, and then there is losing. The loss that the African National Congress suffered in the recently concluded elections in South Africa is a loss of a special type. It is almost as if the erstwhile liberation movement willed this loss on itself.

This is Africa’s oldest political organisation, which, with its longevity and the special task imposed on it by history, became more than a party or a movement but rather became more like a nation — the nation of Black South Africans.

I mean, if you were a Black man or woman in South Africa and you wanted to identify as somebody who wants to be respected as a human being, you were automatically ANC.

True, this is somewhat exaggerated, but it is not very far from the truth. For most of its life since its founding in 1912, it always identified with and represented the people of South Africa, taking an all-inclusive approach to the struggle for all the racial, ethnic, and confessional groups in the country, even when the exactions meted on the country by the most nefarious ideology on the planet could have suggested, and did indeed, suggest a more exclusivist outlook in favour of the majority racial cohort.

It sought to unite and to mobilise energies nationally and internationally, and create a more equal society for all, that would be in sync with the most advanced and progressive thought of the world at different stages of its career. It became home for all South Africans regardless of colour, creed or social station.

Even after Apartheid was officially promulgated as the philosophy and practice of the national government after 1948, the ANC hardly veered from that steadfast philosophical vision. To galvanise adhesion and grow ownership, the ANC adopted strategic blueprints for the future, including the Freedom Charter of 1955, setting out the basic things the movement would do when it came into power.

In the face of intransigence on the part of the Boers, the ANC saw the need to alter strategy and accept that armed struggle was inevitable, and launched the MK (Umkhonto we Sizwe, or Spear of the Nation) to spearhead armed insurrection.)

Though MK was more effective as a propaganda tool than a fighting force, it did the job of getting the white minority in the country to realise that their lives of comfort were numbered as things stood, and that it made more sense to seek some form of accommodation with the Blacks.

Once that was effected, even those Whites who had been diehard supremacists suddenly realised, with regret, how stupid they had been all along: Not only were these Blacks, long considered subhuman, not only fully human but also corruptible—just like the Whites.

And so the White establishment set out to work on their old enemies, corrupting them to the core with the luxurious goodies that up to then the nouveau riches had not imagined, with things like the erroneously termed “Black Empowerment”, a programme designed to yank from the bosom of the people a handful of individuals with sufficient appetites to make them forget about the Freedom Charter.

Probably more than anything, it was this that spelled the start of the demise of the ANC. In the past, we had seen former freedom fighters in Mozambique, Angola and Guinea Bissau scramble into the blinding lights of Lourenco Marques, Luanda and Bissau, to be destroyed by the perils of Original Sin.

But South Africa was different in that the erstwhile oppressors simply took even the former “terrorists” by making them filthy rich, detached from the depressing realities of the masses of their people, by making them, in effect, traitors. So much so that when the workers at Marikana went on strike against a company owned by the current president of the country, the latter had absolutely no qualms about sending in the police to kill scores of protesters!

Now, the phenomenon of two sitting presidents being replaced by their party is spectacular in itself, but it belied a body politic that was groaning under its dead weight of sleaze and factionalism.

It may seem to some observers that the only thing that kept the various hungry factions together was the white-run oppressive system, and that after this was replaced with money-making cabals of ex-comrades, we found an ANC that was ideologically bankrupt and politically rudderless.

Now the ANC has to deal with the electoral result that has denied it an absolute majority for the first time, its crimes and misconduct have caught up with it. It has been sent to a political purgatory to atone for its sins, but while there, it must choose whom to work with among its sworn enemies:

Will it choose the DA, a lily-White party whose feeble attempt to ‘bronze’ itself with the recent choice of Mmusi Maimane as its head failed miserably? Will it rather be Jacob Zuma’s MK party, which is shamelessly an ethnic outfit bent on rehabilitating a misfit who has been disgraced multiple times as a rascal and a thief? Or could it be the EFF’s Julius Malema, whose day job has become, for some time now, to lambast the person of the current president and chief of the ANC?

We shall see.

Ulimwengu is now on YouTube via jeneralionline tv. E-mail: jenerali@gmail.com

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Appraising 25 years of return to democracy, By Jide Ojo

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Last Wednesday, May 29, 2024, marked exactly the silver jubilee of Nigeria’s return to civil rule. However, the celebration has been shifted to June 12 in commemoration of the 1993 presidential election won by the late Chief MKO Abiola which the military junta of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida annulled. It was the immediate past President, Muhammadu Buhari, who did that. In a tweet posted on his X handle on June 6, 2018, Buhari said inter alia “Dear Nigerians, I am delighted to announce that, after due consultations, the Federal Government has decided that henceforth, June 12 will be celebrated as Democracy Day. We have also decided to award posthumously the highest honour in the land, GCFR, to Chief MKO Abiola. In the view of Nigerians, as shared by this administration, June 12, 1993, was and is far more symbolic of democracy in the Nigerian context than May 29, or even October 1.”

Chief Abiola’s running mate, Babagana Kingibe, was also awarded a GCON. Furthermore, the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN), a tireless fighter for human rights and democracy, and for the actualisation of the June 12, 1993 election was posthumously awarded a GCON. Buhari said further that, the June 12, 1993, election was the freest, fairest and most peaceful election since Nigeria’s independence.

1999 to date has been described by political historians as the Fourth Republic. Recall that the First Republic was between October 1, 1960 and January 15, 1966. The Second Republic was between October 1, 1979, and December 31, 1983, when the military struck. The Third Republic was between 1990 and June 23, 1993, when IBB annulled the June 12 presidential election. Thus, the Third Republic was inchoate and inconclusive as it was aborted without a president being sworn into office. Out of Nigeria’s 64 years as a sovereign nation, 29 years were administered by military junta.

How has Nigerian democracy fared under civil rule in the last 25 years? Poorly. Leadership remains a bane of Nigeria’s progress. Although there are 11,082 elective political offices in Nigeria, the occupiers have been more concerned about personal aggrandisement than selfless service. That is why our elections are heavily monetised and prone to violence. Politicians, more often than not, adopt the Machiavellian principle of ‘the end justifies the means.’ They do all they can to compromise the electoral process and manipulate it to their advantage. For instance, campaign finance laws are breached as they spend far above the legal spending limits. Though there are copious laws against electoral violence with stringent penalties, the masterminds and the arrowheads more often than not do not get caught while their minions who get caught are bailed out of detention without prosecution.

If the Independent National Electoral Commission should publish the list of those successfully convicted for electoral crimes in the last 25 years, most Nigerians will be surprised at the infinitesimal number. This has sustained the culture of impunity in our electoral process. Little wonder INEC has been in the forefront of asking for the setting up of the Electoral Offences Commission and Tribunal. Will Nigeria’s devious political class allow that law to be passed? That will be political hara-kiri!

So, since many of Nigeria’s political leaders ‘bought’ or procured their electoral victory, their loyalty does not lie with the electorate but to themselves and their rapacious political class. Because of the heavy spending on elections, the primary objective of Nigeria’s political class is to recoup their investment with super profit. Thus, there is a nexus between unbridled political spending and corruption. The truth is that if all the political officeholders were to live and survive on their basic salaries, there would be so much left for infrastructural development and good governance. However, while they are quick to show us their pay slip, the humongous amount they receive as allowances, estacodes and kickbacks are never mentioned.

Does it not occur to you that nobody will spend billions of naira to contest for a political office only to collect a sum of money that will not defray his or her political expenses? The truth is that not all politicians are bad but the good ones are very few. According to the former American President, Abraham Lincoln, “The true rule, in determining to embrace, or reject anything, is not whether it has any evil in it; but whether it has more evil than good. There are few things wholly evil or wholly good.”

I watched a vox pop conducted by a lady in the United Kingdom asking Nigerians in that country if they would like to get £100,000 and move back to Nigeria. All the respondents said no to the offer. She probed further why they didn’t want to come back home, and unanimously they said it was because of our leadership problem. They all fingered leadership as Nigeria’s number one challenge. The irrefutable fact is that Nigeria is a crippled giant to borrow the words of renowned Professor of Political Science, Eghosa Osaghae. Yes, while I admit that we are not where we used to be, we are at the same time not where we ought to be. For many years, Nigeria laid claim to being the biggest economy in Africa but today we are number four after South Africa, Egypt and Algeria according to the International Monetary Fund.

Twenty-five years into this Fourth Republic, we have had seven general elections in 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015, 2019 and 2023. We have also had five presidents namely, Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan, Muhammadu Buhari and the incumbent, Bola Tinubu. Two political parties have ruled at the centre; the Peoples Democratic Party which governed from 1999 to 2015, while the All Progressives Congress has taken over the leadership mantle at the centre from 2015 to date. Unfortunately, whether you’re talking of the APC or the PDP, or the three tiers of government namely, federal, state and local; what is common to all of them is poor governance. All the development indices that are pointing south are a cumulative non-performance of all the former holders of political offices and the incumbents. As we say, governance is a continuum.

I have said, time and again, that no individual has the magic wand to turn things around for the better in this country. The President, being the overall boss should work collaboratively with state governors and local government chairpersons. However, the president must lead by good example so he can serve as a moral compass to helmsmen and women at the sub-national level. I’m not comfortable with the spending spree of our political office holders who luxuriate in ostentatious lifestyles with their families while the majority of my compatriots languish in poverty.

Nigeria’s political leaders should imbibe the culture of prudence in the management of public finance. The borrowing binge should also stop. Many in the executive arm holding political offices are indulging in reckless borrowing under the guise of funding developmental projects. At the end of the day, there is nothing much to show for the huge public debts. It is important to block revenue leakages and stop oil thefts. It is an act of selflessness, not selfishness, of our political officeholders that will lead the country out of its current economic doldrums.

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