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Opinions of Sunday, 17 September 2017

Columnist: Augustine Akwasi Appiah

Kumawood and Ghallywood must be creative and stop petitioning government

In 1845, the French economist Federic Bastiat who was an advocate of free trade penned a satirical essay in which he mocked the producers of candles for their lack of innovation and fear of competitive products.

The satirical parable which came to be known as The Petition of the Candle Makers against the Competition of the Sun was a witty way the believer in the market economy, Bastiat, ridiculed the manufacturers of candles for their request for the government of France to institute protection policies to guard them against the Competition from the natural light, the Sun. The Makers of Candles feared competition so much that they thought light from the sun hinders consumers from buying candles for use in the day and therefore called on the French Parliament to make laws to protect them. Bastiat drew the producer’s attention to the advantages of free market, competition and innovation in the free economy.

In 2017, here in Ghana, the Film Producers Association of Ghana and Actors want the government of Ghana to intervene with protectionist programs to regulate the choices of telenovelas that Television owners show and viewers watch on TVs. Ironically, they have also sent a petition to the president of Ghana! To protect them from the Competition of other film producers. A petition to protect them from Kumkum Bhagya and her sisters. Obviously.

There was a time when the sales of Nigerian popular culture dominated the market of Ghana. And there arose Agya Koo and his cohorts who brought innovation into Kumawood to rescue the market. It is the same with music. The story of Sakodie easily comes to mind. In 2008, Agya won a national award for his role in reviving the Ghanaian movie industry.

Since Agya Koo's time, the storylines and character depictions in Kumawood have been monotonous. The so-called Ghallywood is no different a story. Obviously, when there is a new product and it has a greater utility, consumers will shift their preference.

The movie competition from abroad is not a big deal that calls for protectionism. Though Ghanaians have shown patronage for telenovelas for quite a long time, the recent traction it has gained is the result of creativity and innovation particularly the translation of them into Twi. With this, the people relate very easily with it.

The Ghana film producers and actors simply have to study the market, research about competitors and innovate. The translation of telenovelas into twi and other languages is an example of the creative destruction in the free market. This creativity doesn't warrant government to coercively spell out what television stations owners must broadcast.

Telenovelas are not the preserve of two or three countries. If Ghanaians love it, produce and give Telenovelas to them. Deploying creativity into the movie industry will be the surest method to win against the influx of telenovelas than the unnecessary and vexatious call on government to meddle in popular culture.