Opinions Thu, 13 Mar 2003

Newspaper Reviews and Phone-in Contributions ...

on the Ghanaian Airwaves

Almost all the privately owned radio stations, referred to as FM stations do some form of newspaper reviews and announce telephone line numbers for listeners to make contributions. This normally takes place between the period between 8:00 and 10:00am, which incidentally may also be referred to as the rush hours of the day. In addition some of the stations also carry out a weekly review of the newspapers. Joy FM?s ?News file? is an example.

During the newspaper review programs, broadcasters or journalists or, call them media men, go through some of the publications of the day or week (in the case of weekly reviews). The choice of news headlines is the prerogative of the host of the program. Whether by design or interest, it is most often, the sensational headlines that are given recognition. For this reason, you will definitely hear reviews from some particular newspapers no matter how scurrilous the stories might be. One could bet that a story with headlines relating to the former President Jerry Rawlings, and anything with some political connotations would be reviewed. What one is not likely to hear is a technical article probably on environment, health, agriculture, education or economics. I am not talking about the phrase ?the economy of the nation?, which has become a common phrase anytime issues about the country is discussed.

One can also hear during these programs a minister of state or some other party functionary being called to substantiate or reject an item in the news headlines.

Then, come the phone-in contributions. The host of the radio program announces the telephone line numbers and invites listeners to make their contributions. I am yet personally to know the essence of these phone-in contributions. Initially I guessed the purpose was to provoke discussions and make contributions that could be utilized for the benefit of our society. But these contributions are just nothing but part of a complete waste of energies on issues that never really mattered anyway, politics and tribalism.

The sad part of it is that, in a situation where a significant percent of our population do not read nor write, and not only rely on comments from newspaper reviews on air, but also believe that anything that is on paper is true. This is where we really have a problem. For instance, a couple of weeks ago there was this news item that the Minister for Information, Mr. Jake Obekyebi-Lamptey ever called the current President an ?Ashanti bastard? on an Accra FM station. You try to explain it could not be true, and the responds is quick, ?it was in the papers?, as if to equate truth to anything that is in the papers. Even if it were true, what good did it serve the people of Ghana by putting it on the airwaves?

I was in Kumasi from the 20th to 24th of last month. There was this program on Luv FM between 2:30 to 3:00 pm on Tuesday 21 2003, called ?Npanyin Fa Agyuen?. A kind of weekly newspaper review. A lady caller in reaction to the NDC?s assessment of the Kufuor administration, said Mr. Alban Bagbin the minority leader was not a Ghanaian and should allow they, Ghanaians to manage their affairs. The host tried to explain to this caller as if she was not aware that, the northern part of the country was part of Ghana. Worse things were said during that 30 minutes period which I would not go into.

My view on most of the newspapers on our news-stands and the articles they carry is that, one need not go beyond a few lines to realize you are reading fiction, not facts. Yet you could hear people phoning-in to express nothing but ethnic and political sentiments, jealousy, wickedness, hatred and intolerance.

The Joy FM?s Newsfile program on Saturdays is one of several FM programs that, depending on which side of the political divide you stand you could avoid listening to save yourself a headache, or feast your ears on and derive your maximum satisfaction. Here journalists, some referred to as ?senior journalists?, are given the opportunity to malign, defame and slander fellow Ghanaians. You will hear a so-called senior journalist speak with some self accorded authority, as if his personal believes are the consensus. Bias-zeroing in on misleading and unfounded allegations as if some vanquished hero deserving better recognition and treatment. No one would ever call anyone to task. Yes that is democracy and freedom of speech, the ?Ghanaian Brand?

The facts of abject poverty, depreciating cedi, raging unemployment, environmental problems afflicting our towns and cities, and the reliance of the country on imports are real. But we prefer to engage in a project of tearing apart and outdoing each other on political and tribal lines. It is sad to say Ghanaian by the dictates of the media, discuss nothing except politics. You cloud be branded anything from being inferior to ?obunsam?, devil, depending on which side of the political divide you stand. My fear is, if this is happing during the ?political off season? (to borrow from GTV management), then God knows what is in stock before the 2004 general election. Sorry, I am not a prophet of doom.

It is my prayer that our diversity as a people should rather be utilized to benefit our society rather than wasting our energies on ethnic and political conflicts by engaging ourselves in an ethnic and political war on the airwaves. It must be made clear to everyone that, no any single political party or tribe, nor strife generated from both can ever improve the state of this country.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of Ghanaweb.
Columnist: Casmed Amadu