On the Web, the P-ndc has Won the 2012 Elections

Mon, 23 May 2011 Source: Akoto, Akwasi A. Afrifa

. Part 1.

Half way through Professor Mills’ presidency, any impartial observer who gets his political news on Ghana on the web only- that is someone who is not and has not been on the ground for some time-will come to the conclusion that the P-ndc has won or will win the 2012 election. To put it another way, if Martians, space men, were asked to vote to decide the possible winner of the 2012 elections, based only on their readings of Ghanaian news on the internet, the P-ndc will win.

The above conclusion is based on volume only: the amount of news items, regardless of its veracity, its quality etc. that can be found on the Internet, about and not necessarily, in favor of one party, the P-ndc, over the other, NPP.

Any avid reader of Ghanaian political news on the various websites; Ghanaweb, Modernghana, Joyonline, peacefmonline, and especially when he is not on the ground, a Martian, for example, would recognize three types or categories of political news: the first is the opinions; the second, items written by radio stations with websites – Joy/Peace/Citi/Xfm- ; and the third is news, articles or editorials submitted by newspapers in Ghana.

Of the three categories, the P-ndc has an overwhelming edge in two. Interestingly, the parties are, more or less, tied in the less credible section, the opinions. Here the impartial observer will not detect any significant advantage on the part of either party. The volunteer writers from both camps, it seems, are busily and dedicatedly churning out opinion pieces in equal measure. We shall therefore not dwell much on this section but not without remarking that, the P-ndc maintained an advantage in this category during Kufour’s era. (Had the privilege to listen to J.H Mensah, when he was on a US tour under Kufour’s administration. Then, J.H -and the administration - seemed visibly disturbed and irritated by “vile” opinions and articles on the web by the P-ndc)

In the category of news items written by websites with radio station affiliations, for example, JoyFMonline and PeaceFM online, the P-ndc has more than twenty percentage points (20 %) advantage over the NPP. An illustration will help throw a clearer light on as to why the P-ndc leads in this category. Take for example, Newsfile on Joy Fm or Kokoroko on Peace fm or any of the shows in like format, these radio stations write or summarize their own versions of these shows and post them online. Usually, these shows host two or more panelists from across the political divide. But when the reports and summaries are published online, it always seems to favor the P-ndc, only in terms of volume, if I may remind readers, once again. . A typical headline would be “ Ablakwa floors…..” or “ Pratt bemoans….” The report in itself would concentrate more on what Ablakwa or Pratt said, and would devote only a paragraph or two to the other panelists; with infrequent one liner rebuttals quoted and scattered here and there.

The partial observer, with “a seeming knowledge” of our politics, would probably conclude that the writers favor the ruling Government for the obvious reasons: bribery, intimidation, empathy, biased etc. But the impartial observer, the Spaceman, will come to a different conclusion after he has taken in to consideration certain factors, among them: time, as in condensing a three hour script or a thirty minute submission or question and answer or clarification/rebuttals during a live broadcast, into a page or two and space, as in summarizing the show into a more readable and coherent format.

When one considers the preceding factors, one would realize that the writer - for these radio station affiliate websites- are left with no other options but to make as his headline and moreover, his content, what would seem to him, based on experience, the point or the panelist whose submissions would possibly catch the reader’s eyes. For the utmost priority for a journalist or a writer, fortunately or unfortunately, is to get his work read, without regard, in most cases, to most the important or pressing news. Not to forget the fact that the writer’s article, just like internal fight for contextual space and time when he was writing, also has to fights for space and time on his Mother website or in his newspaper.

The impartial observer, without any prejudice, will, therefore give the writers at these stations and websites the benefit of the doubt; that they are not tainted in anyway. And that two out of three times, government spokes men, tend to dominate the headlines- on their merit.

The scale, now in favor of the P-ndc, can be easily balanced by the NPP Communication team. They would simply have to write or summarize and submit their own versions of the script of programs that they or any sympathizer of the party go on.

When it comes to the third and final category, that is, news, articles and editorials written by the newspapers and submitted, voluntarily, and published on these websites, the P-ndc wins comfortably. In fact, there is no competition in this category. The ratio as it stands now is 7:1.- If Daily Guide can be considered as pro NPP- One hardly reads any news or editorials submitted by any pro NPP newspaper. To the Martian, with no knowledge as to the background of these newspapers, it would appear as if there are no pro opposition newspapers in the country; or the ruling government simply seems to be doing such a great job, so much so that, an impartial media would have no other choice but to write favorable stories about the government. Of course, many of these newspapers, pro and anti, have their own websites. But these websites don’t get as much traffic as the websites – “the one stop shops” -which collate news items from across the media spectrum. And on these “one stop shops”, Ghanaweb, Modernghana, Joy, Peace FM and the like, the Informal, the Herald, the Enquirer, the Insight and other pro government newspapers dominate.

Here, the NPP Communications team can correct this imbalance simply by submitting editorials, articles, written by pro NPP newspapers - if the newspaper would not submit on their own-to these websites. The importance of news written – especially by newspapers – over any other form of media needs cannot be overstated here. It is extremely important that this imbalance is remedied immediately.

Nonetheless, there appears to be some hope on the horizon for the NPP in this category. Recently, the New Statesman seems to be changing the playing field a little bit. The New Statesman, since it hit the stands, again, a month or two ago after a two year hiatus, has been able to submit regularly, articles and editorials. One thus, gets to read the other side. But it is still not enough to help balance the news for an outsider, the Martian, to make an informative and unprejudiced judgment when it comes to voting.

So in sum, if outsiders, Martians, were asked to vote to determine the possible winner of the 2012 elections, based only on their readings of Ghanaian political news on the web –volume-wise; that is the amount of news items, regardless of its veracity, its quality etc. that can be found on the Internet, about and not necessarily, in favor of one party, the P-ndc, over the other, NPP, the P-ndc will win

On the ground, however, things are not as lopsided as it appears on the web. In reality, there are as many pro NPP newspapers, pro NPP radio stations as there many pro P-ndc newspapers, stations etc. Both parties and their base seem to be happy with their respective spokes people. With one’s own ears and eyes, one hears and equally sees, on radio and on TV, the passion with which speakers of both parties express themselves. Can we therefore dismiss the advantages that the P-ndc enjoys over the NPP online? Should we reject these findings as not being a true reflection of our political culture? Can we simply say that it has no influence on local elections nor can it affect or even be used as a measure to determine and predict upcoming elections?


But no one should underestimate the power of the Internet!

Akwasi A. Afrifa Akoto

Columnist: Akoto, Akwasi A. Afrifa