Whether it pertains to the so-called Media Development Fund that was proposed by the Mahama-led government of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), or the Akufo-Addo-led New Patriotic Party (NPP), it is absolutely not the business of the Central Government in any robust and functional constitutional democracy to determine the quality and content of media fare or the sort of journalism that ought to or must be produced by the country’s professional media operatives. All rhetorical flourishes aside, it is simply not clear to me precisely what he means, when the substantive Information Minister-Designate, Mr. Kojo Oppong-Nkrumah, says that beginning from next year, 2019, the Akufo-Addo Administration intends to collaboratively launch a Media Capacity-Enhancement Program with such media academies, private organizations and statutory institutions as the University of Ghana’s School of Communications Studies, the Ghana Journalists Association, the Ghana National Media Commission and the Ghana Independent Broadcasters’ Association, among a host of others (See “Media Capacity Enhancement Program to Start in 2019 – Oppong-Nkrumah” Ghana News Agency / Ghanaweb.com 10/29/18).
Rather, what the Government needs to do, if it really wants to “enhance” the capacity and quality of media programming in the country, is to enact laws that make the importation of media equipment of all sorts either tax-free or attract the barest minimum of taxation. You see, I find this lecturing to the media community by government officials and other executive operatives to be inescapably unsavory and bizarre and, at best, simply mischievous, since we all know that neither the state-run Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) nor the Ghana News Agency (GNA) is the best-run media establishment in the country. So maybe this is the area where the bulk of state or public funding ought to be channeled. Then also, of course, such public academic establishments as the University of Ghana’s School of Communications Studies.
There can be no gainsaying the fact that the Media Capacity Enhancement Program that Mr. Nkrumah, himself a sometime fine media operative, or presenter, to be precise, is referring to is a thinly veiled version of the sort of Third-World and socialist-bloc journalism that prevailed in much of the 1950s and 60s that was euphemistically called “Development Journalism,” whereby self-serving politicians cajoled the media to primarily serve the dictatorial purposes of government. On the African continent itself, the most-guilty culprit of Development Journalism was Ghana’s own President Kwame Nkrumah. I sincerely don’t think that this is really the direction that the Akufo-Addo Administration wants to tread. There are too many pressing national issues to focus the government’s attention and taxpayer resources on.
Indeed, what the movers and shakers of the media community can do, if they are really in need of any capacity- and content-enhancement, is to liaise with some of their much more advanced counterparts abroad, such as America’s Cable News Network (CNN), the British, Canadian and Australian Broadcasting corporations, some private and state-run media enterprises with enviable operational autonomy. If they do, the likes of Mr. Affail Monney, President of the Ghana Journalists’ Association (GJA), would be pleasantly surprised to learn that these globally recognized media establishments may be willing to train a remarkable number of our local media operatives gratis or for free. And, oh, I forgot to add the names of such global multimedia giants as the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. By all means, our Ground Zero media operatives deserve to be apprised, from time to time, of how well or badly they are doing by the general public. Beyond the preceding, our media operatives have absolutely no need for pontifical political lectures on how to conduct their business professionally and ethically.
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By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D
English Department, SUNY-Nassau
Garden City, New York