Recent news reports that the chairperson of the National Media Commission (NMC), Mr. Kabral Blay-Amihere, had called for state support for the Ghanaian media, has generated a fair amount of controversy. There are many ordinary Ghanaians who are dead against the idea – and feel strongly that provision of financial support by the state will give it a backdoor means of controlling the Ghanaian media. Naturally, there are also those who support such a policy – and think it will strengthen the Ghanaian media. Personally, I think that Mr. Blay-Amihere should rather encourage private newspapers (and the electronic media) to be more creative businesses. Surely it is time they gave some thought to the idea of mergers as a way of continuing to remain sustainable entities in the long-term, is it not, dear reader?
What the Ghanaian media world needs, in order to have business models that ensure robust finances, is consolidation – not handouts from the Ghanaian nation-state. Who knows when some super-clever tyrant will emerge through the ballot box one day – and proceed to manipulate the legal system to whittle away the rights of ordinary people, including their right to freedom of expression, once in power? With respect, a media world in which precious few practitioners have any personal integrity, and are happy to be the lackeys of our ruling elite, in exchange for material benefits, is bound to be a barren place, in which very little original thinking goes on. The fact of the matter is that as long as the Ghanaian media world continues to be a place in which yellow journalism thrives, it will continue to be a place full of basket-cases whose owners struggle to pay those who work for them.
Quite frankly, it ought to be the last sector of the national economy, which anyone should think of keeping afloat financially, through subsidies provided by hapless Ghanaian taxpayers. If media outlets make themselves relevant to their audience as well as their
readers, and make themselves attractive to corporate Ghana (by being entities that command the respect of society – because they are sources of reliable news and vital information; are balanced in their reportage; provide life-enhancing information to listeners, viewers, and a readership with aspirations; and above all are underpinned by ethical journalism), they will not only be able to survive, but thrive. Is that not what advertisers the world over, look for, dear reader? There is a gap in the newspaper market that any creative and nimble-footed media house can exploit. State funding for the private media is definitely not a very good idea.
Rather than spoon-feed the media, it would be far better for the Ghanaian nation-state to devote such funds to providing support, which enables young apprentices, for example, who successfully complete their training but cannot afford tools to work with, to acquire the basic tools and equipment needed to make them enter the world of the self-employed, and become micro-entrepreneurs. Dressmakers; hairdressers; carpenters; masons; plumbers; caterers; shoemakers; etc., at least contribute to the real economy and help increase Ghana’s GDP. A profession that includes many who sell their consciences to politicians, and the fruits of whose labour has such a negative impact on society, as a result of their shameful recourse to sensationalism, and the fabrication of stories, is not one that deserves any support from Ghana’s hard-pressed taxpayers.
They are private undertakings after all, are they not? Let market forces determine which of them survive. If the not-so-good ones amongst them devoted more time to developing themselves as innovative businesses, instead of doing propaganda for their political paymasters, perhaps it would make a difference in the number of copies of newspapers that they sold, and the numbers of viewers and listeners that they are able to attract. Why use taxpayers’ money, precious cash that could improve rural water supply systems, and provide school buildings in much of rural Ghana, to prop up an industry, in which over 90 percent of the professionals employed by sector-players, have even failed to master the basic tool of their profession, the English language?
In any case, what do those media houses and journalists that are in the pockets of politicians, do with the zillions of cedis that their political paymasters provide them, on a regular basis? Let the private media stay private – and make do without any state support. Period. We must not tempt fate, by turning what is the fourth arm of government in our democracy, into a bedfellow of the other three arms of government. If the Ghana media is to play the role of watchdog on society's behalf, and watch over the other three arms of government, let media houses and journalists remain independent in every aspect of their work – lest we end up being deprived of our freedoms and eventually enslaved by our rapacious ruling elite (through collusion towards that end by all four arms of government – if we accept that the media is the fourth arm of government, that is!). To safeguard our liberties, especially now that our homeland Ghana has become an oil-producing nation, we must all be eternally vigilant. A word to the wise...
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