The Centre for Democratic Development (CDD)-Ghana has called on the National Communications Authority (NCA) to halt the licensing of new television and radio stations in the country.
The think tank said given the saturation of the space and the excesses associated with the inundation of TV and radio stations in the country, it was important for the NCA to reduce the number or downsize for effective regulation of the frequencies.
This is part of the recommendations of research the CDD-Ghana conducted on accountability in media governance.
Dubbed “Ensuring Accountability in the Governance of Media and the Internet,” the study, which was launched in Accra last Wednesday, explored the impact of the rapidly evolving media environment, business models, sustainability of media houses and emerging threats posed by expanding internet use.
A Senior Lecturer at the Department of Communication, Innovation and Technology of the University for Development Studies (UDS), Dr Eliasu Mumuni, who presented the findings of the study, said there were over 200 television channels and 700 radio stations in the country.
He said the study found that although the NCA gave more authorisations to Ghanaians to serve diversity and even representation, most authorisations were now in the hands of the three categories of owners: private business groups, politicians and ideologically aligned businesses and companies.
“These cross-media ownership types can have implications for the diversity and plurality of content we consume and promote exclusions and important representations from most marginal groups, which has the potential for a single media stand to influence public opinion across different platforms,” Dr Mumuni said.
Again, he added that, issuing licences to politically exposed or political party sympathisers and businesses linked to governments of the day had to be discouraged, if not stopped, to allow for fairness and inclusiveness of all eligible Ghanaians.
The CDD-Ghana report also called on the government to develop a social media policy to help curb the threats, violence and trolls by social media users.
“Trolling is when someone deliberately tries to upset others online. Trolling can lead to a pile-on when others join in the attack,” according to eSafety Commissioner, Australia’s government agency committed to keeping its citizens safer online.
The researchers observed that such a policy must be linked to the media and broadcasting law to allow for the optimal use of digital platforms. The study also advocated a specific and targeted regulatory framework that empowered and strengthened the existing regulatory institutions such as the media, broadcasting law and the National Media Commission (NMC).
Such a regulatory framework, the study stressed, must focus on shaping media practice in the country to improve the standards, ethics, rights and responsible content production.
The research found that in terms of education, 70 per cent of journalists who worked in media organisations had diploma or degrees, while 21 per cent had postgraduate degrees, with nine per cent having basic to secondary education.
Refreshing as that was, the study established that there was a disturbing development where journalists were paid very low salaries or not paid at all. Dr Mumuni said such a development, including the failure of many journalists to belong to professional associations, had negative implications for professionalism.
On emerging business models, the findings showed that most top media houses were now raising significant revenue through subscriptions to their YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok accounts.
“The print media, for example, has seen a significant growth in the subscriptions of their online versions.
These are not paid subscriptions, but the increasing numbers of subscribers to the digital versions of the media houses increase their viewership, listenership and readership, hence generating monetisation opportunities for their content,” the report stated.
The report added that most of the existing big media houses in the country relied on conglomerates to capture the media market share in the country.
“Despite this development, most participants believe that the media’s financial sustainability is shaky and weak and so affects the welfare of practitioners in the industry,” it added.
It also said the situation had “significant implications” for journalism, the media landscape and how information was shared.