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Opinions of Saturday, 10 October 2015

Columnist: Ajoa Yeboah-Afari

Who speaks for TV viewers in Ghana?

Opinion Opinion

Tomorrow, October 10, this year’s Radio and Television Personality Awards (RTP) night is scheduled to take place in Accra. Therefore, it seems a good opportunity to spotlight again some concerns about the service offered by our television stations, in particular, in the hope that their managements might be interested this time.

Moreover, I note that the RTP award categories range from ‘Personality of the Year’, through ‘Radio Reggae Show Host of the Year’ (strangely, no recognition for promoting Highlife?), to ‘Development Show Host of the Year’ and ‘Television Local Series of the Year’.

Well, how about a Patience Award for the long-suffering viewers?
For, as indicated, the matters are not new complaints – and I believe they also reflect the views of many people. The following is part of an article published in this space on February 7, 2014, under the heading, ‘Why must TV viewing be a lottery?’ More than a year later, the issues raised in that article are still of concern, hence this reminder:

In fact, I have a number of complaints about the television fare, but most of all, my problem is that nobody seem to be taking care of viewers’ interests and needs.
For instance, isn’t it strange that despite the current multiplicity of television and radio stations in this country, one can’t find a single newspaper that publishes even a few of the programme guides or schedules of the stations?

In many of the countries whose ways we so avidly try to copy, such as the UK, TV and radio schedules are considered important and much attention is paid to those pages. Usually, readers are directed on the front page to where the listings can be found inside. I dare say that there are people in those countries who buy a paper not to read the news but for the listings.

In this country, some TV stations seem to assume that putting their schedule on their web site is enough. However, even with that, the web site listings are sometimes not reliable as they are not updated in keeping with changes. In any case, how many viewers have the Internet at home?

What seems to be the norm is that the stations run the day’s schedule at the beginning of their telecast, or in the early evening, when most people would not be at home, or are not watching. Thus those who miss the telecast of the schedule have little or no idea what programmes are on that evening, or no idea about the exact screening times.

Further, if a film or programme is in two or three parts, it is difficult to know when the continuation will be shown as they usually conclude only with ‘To be continued’.

The pacesetters, the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, used to publish a Radio and TV Times but as far as I know it has not appeared for years, if not decades.

In summary, TV viewing in Ghana is a lottery, a veritable cha-cha or game of chance.
Surely, this haphazard way of doing things is a matter that should concern some office or relevant interest group, or the advertisers who pay good money to sponsor programmes? Who knows, to the benefit of especially advertisers, some of the time spent in beer bars and akpeteshie joints could well be spent at home watching TV if only people knew the schedules and what programmes they might be missing.

Admittedly, there are no easy solutions. A few years ago, as some long-time readers of the Ghanaian Times newspaper will recall, the Times started publishing some radio and TV schedules, an initiative that was much applauded. However, the paper had to abandon it after some time due to frustrations and lack of cooperation from the media houses.

In fact, getting the schedules from them, to publish free of charge for the benefit of readers as well as to their own advantage, was virtually like pulling out healthy teeth. I know this for a fact because I was then the paper’s Editor and the person who introduced that idea.

I also wonder if viewers should not be spared the annoyance of seeing on some channels the same adverts countless times every evening, for months. It is no wonder that as soon as some adverts begin, people either switch stations or tune off the sound.

Why inflict this tedium on viewers? Also, when it gets to the stage when viewers are fed up and voting with their remote, is the advertiser not throwing money away?
Another issue is whether the advertisers ever do surveys to assess the impact of their publicity on viewers, or target audiences, in order to get value for money; or to know when an advert reaches ‘boring point’. But maybe both the advertisers and the TV stations consider viewers captive audiences so their interests and needs do not count.

As for the adult scenes and near pornography on our screens at any time of the day, whether children are watching or not, that perhaps is a full topic for another article. And I suppose that the Ghana Cinematography Board of Control is on leave or not yet functioning.

In the meantime, who will come to the aid of viewers? Any assistance from the National Media Commission or the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association?
Or maybe viewers’ needs are beyond the mandate or scope of the existing bodies, therefore what is needed is a new group, an Association of Television Viewers, to work towards making TV viewing in Ghana less frustrating; in effect, help them to help us.