Traditionally, radio is used as a medium for information, education, entertainment and a means of relaxation to the society or community it serves.
In Ghana, the emergence of radio was heralded by its people in the early 30’s or to be precise 1935. But as to whether radio benefited the citizens or their various governments, is a question remained to be challenged, answered or left alone.
This article seeks to discuss about the emergence of radio and its related developmental issues in Ghana.
First and foremost, many Ghanaians were of the conviction that arguably, it was Dr Kwame Nkrumah, the first prime minister and subsequent president of the first republic of Ghana, who initially brought radio broadcasting to Ghana.
But it has been well documented that it was one colonial governor Sir Arnold Hodson who established the first ever radio station in the Gold Coast now Ghana.
Diplomatically Sir Arnold Hodson established the radio to serve the people of the capital Accra and to further enhance the source of information for the foreign expatriates who did live in Ghana.
He named the radio ZOY. However, the radio broadcast started as a relay service from the British broadcasting Corporation. This new transmission lasted for about a year and was extended to the Central Regional capital of Ghana which is Cape Coast.
The following year saw the opening of three more radio stations in the capital Accra. During this time, the broadcasting was done in four major Ghanaian languages-Twi, Fanti, Ga, and Ewe.
However as was the normality in Britain, Sir Arnold Hodson in 1952 directed the station to have a controlling body to oversee the statutory regulations of the stations. As a result, the Gold Coast Broadcasting System was then established in 1954 which later name-changed after the independence of Ghana in 1957 to Ghana Broadcasting Corporation.
Politically Ghana gained Independence in 1957 from her colonial masters who were the British. The man who orchestrated this revolution was the first prime minister of the Republic of Ghana Dr Kwame Nkrumah and his political cohorts. He later became the first president as well.
Dr Kwame Nkrumah then arguably sawed his political agenda and propaganda via the radio, instead of the citizens’ right to use radio as a source of information, education, entertainment and relaxation.
Radio broadcasting in Ghana then became the propagation of the agenda and propaganda of each and every sitting head of state or incumbent president. Which to some extent lack the veracity and authenticity of information to the public.
Officially Ghana Broadcasting Corporation was left in the hands of Ghana government to run. The first two radio stations the Ghana government opened was Radio-1 and Radio-2 from which the former broadcasts in English and other Ghanaian languages like Akan, Ewe, Ga, Hausa and Nzema, while the latter broadcasts all its programmes in English.
These two major stations broadcast to the whole of Ghana via satellite unlike Sir Arnold’s which was only received in just the capital Accra. This is why some still doubt the fact as to who established radio broadcasting in Ghana.
Subsequently to Radio-1 and 2, which transmits from Accra the capital, the government opened 12 more radio stations to represent all the regional capitals in Ghana.
The Ghana Broadcasting Corporation enjoyed its monopoly of the Air-waves till the 1992 constitutional reforms challenged its superiority. The constitution declares categorically the liberalisation and privatisation of radio frequencies in Ghana.
Although that was what the constitution demands, each government arguably plays delaying tactics with the provision and allocation of licence to prospective private radio owners.
In 1994, one opposition leader by name Charles Wereku-Brobbey protested this policy with his own pirate broadcasting from radio EYE, which pressured the Rawlings government to succumb to the constitution of 1992.
So 1994 saw the end of Ghana Broadcasting Corporation’s monopoly of the Air-waves and ushered in the emergence of narrow-casting which was well tailored towards the needs and concerns of the citizens in each and every region by these private owned radio stations.
That was the very first time, the Republic of Ghana was enjoying the true meaning of freedom of speech through the Air-waves. The movement from broadcasting to narrow-casting was nationally and regionally embraced by the people of Ghana immensely because, that was the medium through which they could socially and interactively participate democratically via phone-in segments being introduced by some of the newly opened private radio stations across the nation.
Critically and creditably radio broadcast journalism in Ghana was applauded for ensuring peace, stability, unity and sanity during the democratic general elections of the year 2000 and 2004 respectively.
Through broadcasting, some Radio Journalists were able to give on-the-spot accountability of the election processes from the ballot box to the declaration of the final results. This was not the norm when the monopoly of the Ghana broadcasting Corporation was at its peak.
In terms of economics, for a private or in other words, commercial radio station, to be viable and run successfully, it needs to sell time-slots to make profit. But the sales of these time-slots for advertisement has in effect not done well for most of these private radio stations.
This is because instead of concentrating on productive programming for the public, for fear of their business folding up, they allow all sorts of unproductive programmes to run on these stations.
Unlike the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation which is funded by the government through the generation of public Television Licences, the private radio stations cannot stay in business without advertisement, which makes it very difficult for them to survive or stay in business.
Apart from the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation who has over the years set the standard of recruiting and employing only qualified and certified radio presenters, most of the private radio stations do not adhere to these standards professionally.
As a result, poor quality of news item, vulgarism, inflammatory remarks and erratic radio presentation has been the hallmark of most of the private radio stations.
However, some of the journalists in Ghana are trained at the Ghana Institute of journalism (GIJ) in Accra which was founded in 1958, offering two-year diploma programs in both journalism and public relations/advertising.
There is also the School of Communication Studies which was also founded in 1974 at the University of Ghana in Legon. In the beginning, the school offers a postgraduate training, a master’s-level degree in journalism and mass communication.
These private radio stations, in one way or the other, have been useful in the relaying of information from the citizens to the government. The public usually prompt the Police via these radio stations about any nefarious activity in the community.
Despite its relative freedom, radio broadcasting in Ghana has its challenges. Most radio presenters in Ghana are often poorly paid, only few are correctly paid while others pretend to be loyal to the party in governance to be favoured.
Due to this trend, some radio presenters and journalist are always susceptible to bribery and corruption.
The liberalization of the Air-waves in Ghana has helped the Ghanaian society and its media in the development of nation building. From Britain to the Gold Coast presently Ghana, this is how radio emerged.
BY YAW NKETIA: TOUCHING YOU FROM A DISTANCE, WHILE COLLECTING, COLLATING AND REPORTING AS JOURNALISM DEMANDS.