You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2021 04 12Article 1230352

Opinions of Monday, 12 April 2021

Columnist: Joseph Aketema

Censoring the broadcast media in Ghana

NMC says it does not lie within its mandate to regulate TV and radio content NMC says it does not lie within its mandate to regulate TV and radio content

It would serve me greater purpose if I refrain from giving much scholarly insight to what I sought to discuss here. Some of the views expressed here are part of a work in progress.

The dictates of the time and the loud silence of those who wield it in their hands to champion the crusade against the insidious content in our media has necessitated this piece. It would be very necessary to mention that in the recent past, Alan Ginsberg, with regards to the media, has noted, “Whoever controls the media, the images, controls the culture”.

This implies those tasked to control the media by virtue of their action or inaction, or their failure to regulate, censor, punish or revoke licenses of media houses may be promoting a certain culture, whether desirable or not.

The digitization of the media has brought in its wake a lot of television channels with different missions and purposes. In Ghana, there are now wealth and prosperity channels owned by Churches, and other individual and corporate stations. The faces behind those who own these channels are not as important as what they churn out or broadcast.

It is to be noticed that as part of the national policies aimed at censoring media content, there is an existing proposal, advocating 70% local content. When this is finally passed, every local media house would be mandated to telecast at least 70% of local content, which of course would be in consonance with our culture, mission and vision as a country.

The rest of the content space should not grant latitude to any form of culture that attempts to superimpose, denigrate, and mislead the public to accepting any view that has the propensity of causing harm to our culture and existence as a people. Quite strangely and unfortunately too, there is a reverse trend in Ghana.

This begs for a question, who polices the media, and how effective is the policing? I had watched an American movie with a Parental Guidance of thirteen (13) shown on a Ghanaian television channel in the early hours of one afternoon.

There was the use of vulgar language and explicit sex. It was clear to me that this media house did not understand that the PG 13 meant that the film should be shown to teenagers only with Parental Guidance (PG).

Aside from this, the socio-cultural realities that would permit America to make a movie of PG thirteen may not be the same in Ghana. I cannot imagine the number of Ghanaian children who were morally indoctrinated and sexually enculturated that day. From the last couple of years, the focus of communication authorities’ media watchdogs has largely been on political utterances, the demeanor, comments, and conduct of politicians and other public figures.

An interrogation of comments made by political figures albeit important are sometimes hyped to the point of absurdity and dies off as soon as they are raised. Some of these mundane political issues do not only dwarf and bleak our attention to forms of harm such as nudity, needless voyeurism, money doublers, magicians, sorceries and doom prophets but has made some people political witch hunters. Some have simply used their media houses as tools for personal vendetta.

In both rural and urban areas, while parents are in their offices, fields, or elsewhere working, they entreat their children to stay at home not necessarily because of the recent Covid-19 pandemic, but neighbours these days cannot simply be trusted. While at home, television, an influential cultural tool, becomes the only comfort and companion to the children.

Alcohol ads are screened in the daytime, they entertain themselves with nude music videos. Also, occult grand wizards and sorcerers parading themselves in the name of Christianity and Islam will be promising solutions to love, fame, success and riches. These people become the default parents of the child and the damage caused to these children can be very debilitating. Noam Chomsky has warned, “He who controls the media controls the minds of the public”.

If cultural ideals pertinent to the Ghanaian culture are prompted, the citizenry is likely to exude and extol those ideals.

While self-censorship is the right thing to do and should be encouraged. There should be punitive measures against non-compliance to basic conventions with regards to media broadcast. It is right to say that the closure of some media houses would have some consequences—jobs would be lost.

But as a country, it is more important to protect our culture, and know the kinds of media content to broadcast. In the wake of the increasing cases of depression and stress in Ghana, how can Kofi Asamoah (Kofas Media), Benson Nana Yaw Oduro Boateng (Funny Face), and O. B Amponsah and others be helped to use comedy that releases stress through education?

What kind of programs can be mapped to mitigate spousal murders and kidnappings? What kind of children and teenage programs can promote discipline in our children? What happened to programs like Kweku Ananse? In the wake of sectionalism, ethnic jingoism, communal conflicts which programs should be we have.

Should these be in the form of film or talk shows? Who would be empaneled to talk and what are their personal philosophies of life? The very foundation of a clean media space lies in the individuals whose duty it is to execute the broadcast laws of Ghana to the latter without fear or favour.

In other jurisdictions media houses are made to practice or implement ‘self-censorship’ However this is guided by rules and regulations issued out by Media authorities and unions. So in the case of Ghana GIBA, NMC, and legal Acts like the Broadcast Bill (yet to be passed) or other laws bothering on content could help solve these problems.