Feature Article of Tuesday, 21 June 2011
Columnist: Adu-Gyamfi, Kwaku
The Noisy ‘Information Centers’ Abound: Who Regulates This New Industry?
VOICE OF REASON:
The FM radio stations have fierce competitors, but who watches them, and what is their role in this information age?
This is how the mushroomed information centers work: “its 4am. And this is your first announcement: Auntie Maggie, of Atobriso junction had her mobile phone stolen from her bedroom, while she was in a bath house. She’s from the Volta region so you know what will happen to the perpetrator. Everyone who is involved will go down. I’ll bring you the rest of the story later. This is Ese -wani information Center .Thank you!”
One man’s noise pollution is another man’s ‘Information Center’, but who is going to regulate this new industry , so as to prevent abuses and tempering of personal freedom of the citizenry?
Virtually, every town in Ghana that has electricity has some form of ‘Information Center’. In fact, my town with less than two –hundred thousand people has two, and it’s most likely we will have more by the end December.
For those who are not familiar with an ‘Information Center’, which is springing up all over the place, it’s a new way of disseminating information in our towns in Ghana. It’s usually housed in a makeshift building, equipped with an amplifier, a mike and a couple of horn speakers attached to tall antenna.
Not that they aren’t sign of progress, but I never thought I’d see the day when I’d be constantly woken up in the middle of the night in my town, for an announcement of a missing goat or funeral agenda, in a town where tranquility used to rule, back in the day .As if that was not enough, the announcement is always followed by the proprietor’s “special greetings” to everyone and everybody on his list from whom he has received a blessing or a favor. And I’m not talking about his casual acquaintances only. His family members and the Abusua Panyin are also included-- as a sign of showing love and respect. My guess is, telling them face- to- face is not enough.
The situation is this: The original function of these centers was to broadcast stolen goods and pets, missing items and any social announcement during the day or around 8pm. Usually, a day will not go by without the announcement of a missing mobile phone, palm kernels or a missing banku soap from a chop bar operator—do not laugh, I’m not making this up!. It’s also a place for funeral announcements, as well as a medium to send condolences, sympathies and gratitude to loved ones.
The idea of people walking to your house to express their appreciation or gratitude for your donation or contribution to a worthy cause is long gone—Thanks to Ese –wani Information Center.
Things have changed. These days the operators are laughing all the way to the bank at the expense of disturbing one’s sleep or tranquility. An information center is a God-sent vehicle for vendors, who use it to advertise their products and services with a fee. Maybe that is why herbal medicine vendors have stopped peddling their wares on buses and in passenger vehicles--who wants to sell on the bus while he can sit comfortably in a room?
It’s also a place for would-be preachers and Pastors to hone their rudimentary preaching skills. Every night, around 4am, a preacher comes on to preach; while the volume of the system is turned up to the highest decibel so as to get the maximum coverage, but it puts assault on people’s eardrums. After the preaching they send their “special greetings” to those church members who paid the most collection the previous Sunday. Sometimes they use the center not as a pulpit, but as an attacking tool to score points with people who have wronged them. The power of a microphone is very strong and vicious .Indeed, it’s getting very crazy!
The question is: Who regulates this new industry and its mode of operation, so as to preserve its integrity and longevity? To me, I consider the information center as a portable local radio station; therefore, it must be regulated and supervised like any other form of media before things go hay-wire.
“Yaw Gyasi, mi kyia wo. Kwame Bobo, mi kyia wo .Teacher Asenso mi kyia wo. Antie Yaa Nko Mi kyia wo. ”Welcome to the Information age; Ghana- style. Talk about trapping on people’s freedom in the name of ‘progress ‘and making a buck.
Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi Mountainview, Asuom, Ghana. .