Political information reporting in Ghana is altering. It’s extra frequent to seek out sensational and humorous tales included into political information than it was just a few years in the past. This raises questions in regards to the high quality of political information and the impression it has on democracy.
The medium that appears to be main the pattern is radio, significantly the privately owned stations.
Since a court docket ruling in 1994 which opened the doorways for personal radio stations to function, there are far more of these in Ghana than state-owned stations.
In Ghana as in a lot of Africa, radio is the preferred and accessible medium. It has the biggest audience share over all different conventional media like TV and newspapers. As a result of a lot of the political information individuals eat is thru the media, radio serves because the dominant supply of political data. This provides radio immense energy in shaping public perceptions about politics and politicians.
But most shoppers know little or no about how political information is chosen.
To seek out out, I interviewed political editors and journalists from two personal radio stations in Ghana along with (ladies) politicians and civil society consultants.
The findings confirmed a rise in commercialisation of political information content material and an absence of professionalism.
Each of those developments undermine democracy as they end in information that doesn’t replicate the complete vary of political voices or views. Political content material focuses on views that conform to the radio stations’ operational objectives. If the standard of democracy in a rustic partly depends on the sort of political data that residents get from the media, then consideration have to be paid to how political information is produced.
Commercialisation of content material
Usually, journalists make use of news values to pick out data. Key amongst these are impression, proximity, battle, energy elite and prominence.
Nevertheless, my research revealed that for journalists in Ghanaian personal radio stations, newsworthiness is about energy elite, controversy and battle. The extra vital the character, the upper the viewers attraction. Journalists mentioned they don’t solely choose increased ranked politicians however these with charisma and social capital. These have a tendency to draw extra listeners.
Politicians who can provide thrilling soundbites, who’re notoriously controversial or who have already got a big social following have larger media entry than these with out these qualities. Such sources, along with controversial or battle tales, make for good listening.
As one journalist said:
any editor will know in regards to the information values however for us, a very powerful is the place is the battle and the place is the controversy?
That focus creates a combative political actuality over time. It might additionally gas divisions and discourage some residents from collaborating in politics.
On this news-making mannequin, audiences are considered not as residents however as shoppers. Information has restricted informational worth since content material is extra sensational than factual.
Moreover, specializing in political sources with explicit traits implies that solely a restricted view of political points and views is represented within the information. This serves to exclude many different sources – reminiscent of feminine politicians, who famous within the interviews that they had been usually against being drawn into aggressive “debates” on air.
Lack of professionalism
Aside from information values, different elements shaping political information manufacturing are media possession and incentive-driven protection resulting in biased reporting. Non-public radio stations are owned by political actors or entrepreneurs who’re normally affiliated to a political occasion. The state broadcaster just isn’t a dominant participant in viewers share as is perhaps the case in different international locations.
One senior editor defined:
Media possession in the present day in Ghana is within the arms of the individuals we’re speculated to be watching and questioning and demanding accountability from. The print, digital, TV and radio media are managed, owned, managed by politicians and enterprise homeowners … So true impartial media in the present day in Ghana, I can say, doesn’t exist. Even state-owned media which is meant to be public service tv and radio aren’t completely impartial.
Consequently, information content material normally favours these allies.
Equally, the tradition of paying journalists to cowl occasions, popularly generally known as “soli” or “payola”, affects reporting. This was a sore level raised by ladies we interviewed who had been candidates within the 2016 elections.
As a result of feminine politicians have much less marketing campaign funding than their male counterparts, they wrestle probably the most with getting their actions into the information. That is partly as a result of they don’t have the funds to pay journalists to cowl them. Just a few media organisations have banned their workers from taking any payola however the apply is just too widespread for the bans to make a lot of a distinction.
Penalties for political participation
Non-public radio stations in Ghana play a task in holding authorities officers to account and serving public pursuits. However the political news-making practices which have been outlined right here current a restricted model of politics and politicians to residents. These practices additionally undermine individuals’s belief within the media and discourage political participation.
Moreover, they contribute to presenting politics as a reserve for males, weakening nationwide and world efforts to attain gender equality in politics.
Whereas the Nationwide Media Fee and Ghana Journalist Affiliation want extra stringent measures to deal with this rising pattern in political information manufacturing, residents must also be extra important of the information they eat and demand increased requirements of journalism.
— to theconversation.com