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Opinions of Monday, 18 May 2015

Columnist: Appiah, Papa

Mediocrity At Its Worse

Samson Ayenini’s Newsfile – Mediocrity At Its Worse

I settled down on Saturday morning after what had been a rather hectic week to relax with some grilled akonfem while watching Newsfile on line. Seriously, you should try my akonfem recipe. It used to be that the only way one could reliably get akonfem in the UK was to travel to London and visit the Gold Coast restaurant. While wandering round a Tesco superstore one day, I chanced upon some fresh akonfem. I bought a couple, added a dollop of butter, salt and ground black pepper and grilled it. I bought some “suya” from an African shop in town and presto! My akonfem tasted better than any I could buy in the Gold Coast, which often would have been grilled hours, or sometimes days before, and would be microwaved to serve. On a more serious note however, I looked at the prices of the akonfem in Tesco and wondered what might have been if the akonfem programme in the north under SADA had succeeded. But there we go again.

The Newsfile is Multitv’s flagship current affairs programme hosted by Mr Samson Ayenini. And if one would like to get an idea of how much some of our countrymen have now come to accept a lack of professionalism as the norm, one needs not go beyond this programme. The host loves the sound of his voice so much, one has to endure a dreary sixteen to twenty minute introductory speech from him before one even notices any of the panellists. His lack of the ability to sum up everything in at most three minutes and quickly introduce the panellists to maintain the enthusiasm baffles me. I wondered whether he had ever watched any discussion programme on foreign TV stations. While we don’t have to copy blindly from the west, the fact remains that they have more experience in broadcasting and we can copy from them without necessarily going through the mistakes they made in the past.

Mr Samson Ayenini went on ad nauseum on dumsor, article 71 and everything else and at the very last minute, prior to getting his first panellist to speak suddenly chipped in;

“Oh I nearly forgot, could I hear something about Jones Attuquayefio?”

There were supposed to be four panellists. But at the start, only two of them had arrived. We watched as the latecomers nonchalantly arrived. Of course, a few minutes lateness is not a big deal in Ghana. Of course there is traffic and an important message from the party to fall back on. Life goes on. If you cannot stand it, just tune off or go to sleep or whatever! What a good example for our youth.

Finally we got the panellists to talk. There is another ceremony for that. Apparently, the very long introduction by Samson and a bow or a wave was not enough to acknowledge the Ghanaian audience. Every panellist, as a rule, has to do something akin to the following;

There is a tidying of the table, a clearing of the throat, a shuffle in the seat and a shrug of the shoulder. If you are not lucky, they may comb their hair or even ask go to the loo and come and then finally;

“Thank you for inviting me to the programme. Let me take the opportunity to say hello to everybody listening…”

It is supposed to be a debating programme but there is no vigorous, engaging debate per se. A format has been devised when one person takes their time to talk any kind of nonsense without being interrupted for about five minutes. Then Samson, whose facial expression makes you wonder if one of the panellists has not accidentally let off some hot air from the wrong end, shows off a bit in-between and calls the next person to talk. This kind of format may have been advised on the basis of previous experience of dealing with rowdy panellists. But I believe it is a the job of a competent host to encourage a dynamic, engaging, to and fro exchange of opinions and views while at the same time maintaining a certain degree of discipline. That is what the job is about and that is what makes for good TV. In this case, however, the drama of an engaging discussion is completely wiped out, while the “schoolmaster” Samson runs the show and makes himself the centre of attraction.

And if you think I am exaggerating, you should see Kwaku Baako when he is caught unawares by the camera when somebody else is speaking. You see, Kwaku Baako happens to be a regular panellist on the show who has decided to while away the boredom while others are speaking, by bringing in a mountain of books to do his homework. I just have to laugh when I see him busily studying when somebody is speaking. This is a TV debate. You don’t only have to listen to your fellow panellists out of sheer respect; you must actually be seen to be listening. Sorry, but this is not the place to do your homework or research a topic. Common decency requires that you show your colleagues some respect!

But Kwaku Baako is by no means the only culprit. Others may be fiddling with their mobile phones, writing and receiving text messages or reading something on their iPad. Last week, I actually saw a respected lawyer answering his mobile phone while someone else was speaking. Others simple snore away. These are leaders in our communities who are supposed to set a good example. They are also the kind of people who articulate most vociferously on issues to do with indiscipline and corruption, completely oblivious of their own limitations. If their behaviour is a reflection of the country at large, then we have a problem.

So why is this rubbish programme a flagship one in Ghana? Mediocrity! There is simply no alternative and we have come to accept something as repugnant as that as the norm!

Papa Appiah