An expansion of an already-crowded media landscape has not been met with a corresponding increase in postive social and behaviourial change in Ghana, says Dr. Lloyd Amoah, Director of the Centre for Asian Studies at the University of Ghana.
In a one-on-one interview with Joy FM’s Super Morning Show host, Daniel Dadzie, Dr. Amoah warns that hopes of national transformation will stagnate if media policies are not implemented to diversify content.
“On television, you see Ghana as this over-religious society coupled with telenovelas from other countries,” he says. “There’s limited thinking in how we intend to move forward with our media coverage.”
In China, where he received a Ph.D. from Wuhan University, he says there’s a concerted effort to educate its people through information technology. The country successfully created “a sense of connection between the media and tradition.”
In Ghana, however, Amoah has observed a mindset intoxicated by money to deliver information deemed worthless. And even more puzzling to the analyst, is the limitless avenues available that are underutilized.
“Back then, there was only one station. Newspapers were the main route,” he says. “But there has been a shift in the times. We have a wide range of channels, but there’s a misconfiguration of the message we want to tell and the government needs to be creative on what story to tell its people.”
According to the 2018 World Press Freedom Index, Ghana surpasses all other African countries in its media freedom levels – settling news to many considering Cambodia, a country with a dwindling free press market, just sold their last independent newspaper to a Malaysian investor with ties to Cambodia’s Prime Minister.
People there fear it’s the beginning of government-controlled media in the country.
Unlike Cambodia, Ghana upholds its promise in Chapter 12 of the country’s Constitution, where it states that media pluralism and independence is guaranteed.
Vice President, Mahamudu Bawumia, echoed that notion during opening remarks at the 2018 World Press Freedom Day last week. He assured that the government would empower citizens by passing the Right to Information Bill into law.
Dr. Amoah agrees, but suggests too much freedom could stifle Ghana’s integrity.
“Anyone with money can buy a TV station and do whatever they want,” he says. “Those in power should think about that.”
Last year, Information Minister, Mustapha Abdul-Hamid, revamped the Media Development Fund in an effort to enhance democratic governance. MDF’s aim was to create a “conducive atmosphere” where news could be delivered informatively.
The year before, during the beginning of President Akufo Addo’s presidency, Dr. Amoah noticed there was great mobilization efforts to tell the Ghanaian story, but those exertions have since faded.
“The government let it slip.”
In an example, he mentions that government has the power to address motorists who disobey simple traffic laws, but these motorists don’t feel the need because, authority isn’t imposed through communication channels, he says.
“Those who hold power should demonstratively exert the rule of law and those laws should be enforced,” he says. “When I visited California I noticed motorists stopped when they should. Why can’t we do that?”
Media has the power to shift the social conscious of the people it captures, and the government should make a deliberate attempt to reach them in a way that’s impactful, he says. He’s hopeful that state-backed policies can engineer a framework targeted to remapping the minds of Ghanaians.
“It should be about ideas,” he says. “Not just money.”