Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is MOM?
The “Media Ownership Monitor” (MOM) has been developed as a mapping tool in order to create a publicly available, continuously updated database that lists owners of all relevant mass media outlets (press, radio, television sectors and online media).
MOM aims to shed light on the risks to media pluralism caused by media ownership concentration for more information: Methodology. In order to grasp the national characteristics and detect risk-enhancing or risk-reducing factors for media concentration, MOM also qualitatively assesses the market conditions and legal environment.
2. Who is behind MOM?
MOM has been proposed and launched by Reporter ohne Grenzen e. V. – the German section of the international human rights organization Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF), that aims to defend freedom of the press and the right to inform and be informed anywhere in the world.
In each country, RSF cooperates with a local partner organization. In Ghana, RSF worked with Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA). The project is funded by the Federal German Ministry of Economic Development and Cooperation (BMZ).
3. Why is Transparency of Media Ownership important?
Media pluralism is a key aspect of democratic societies as free, independent, and diverse media reflect divergent viewpoints and allow criticism of people in power. Risks to diversity of ideas are caused by media market concentration, when only a few players exert dominant influence on public opinion and raise entrance barriers for other players and perspectives (media ownership concentration). The biggest obstacle to fight it is lack of transparency of media ownership: How can people evaluate the reliability of information, if they don´t know who provides it? How can journalists work properly, if they don´t know who controls the company they work for? And how can media authorities address excessive media concentration, if they don´t know who is behind the media´s steering wheel?
MOM thus aims to create transparency and to answer the question “who eventually controls media content?” in order to raise public awareness, to create a fact base for advocacy to hold political and economic players accountable for the existing conditions.
As we consider ownership transparency as a crucial precondition to enforce media pluralism, we document the openness of media companies/outlets to provide information on their ownership structure. Considering their answers, we distinguish different levels of transparency – which is indicated for each media outlet and media company on their profile.
Media owner’s motivation to remain hidden or even actively disguise their investments can vary from legitimate to illegal and be rooted in personal, legal or business-related reasons – or a mix thereof, in extreme cases even including criminal offenses like tax evasion or breaches of anti-trust laws.
Some of those reasons include the following:
- In several countries, media ownership is restricted by law in order to avoid concentration. So if one individual wants to extend his or her media empire beyond these limits, proxy owners and/or shell companies registered abroad, even off-shore, are frequently being used.
- Sometimes, media owners receive personal threats or face other dangers either originating from governments or competing businesses and therefore decide to remain unknown to protect themselves.
- In many cases, media ownership is intertwined with undue political or economic interests, even more so if individuals are involved that hold a public office and who don’t want to disclose such a conflict of interests.
- In rare cases, the disguise of media ownership happens unintentionally because over time and through mergers and acquisitions, corporate structures became so complex that the original beneficial owner is difficult to identify.
- Last not least, there are ‘normal’ – i. e. non-media-related reasons for owners to hide, such as tax evasion.
4. What kind of Concentration Control does MOM suggest?
MOM doesn’t make normative statements – it doesn’t suggest how to regulate media ownership. Which form of media concentration regulation can work, depends on the country context, the existing legal and market conditions, the ownership landscape.
MOM provides a transparency tool to enforce a democratic discussion on that issue as well as good governance: decisions are likely to be of higher quality and to better reflect the needs and wishes of the people if they have access to adequate information and broad consultations, with views and opinions freely shared.
5. How is Data collected?
Preferably, official data sources, and/or sources with a high level of reliability and trust are used. Whenever not publicly available, information was directly requested of media companies, political representatives and research institutes. All sources are thoroughly documented and archived (link to Library). Further information is available on request at MFWA.
For Print, TV, and Radio data, MOM cooperated with GeoPoll Ghana (https://research.geopoll.com/index.html) (Audience Data Print/Radio/TV, Q1 2017). GeoPoll is the world’s largest mobile survey platform, with a network of 200 million users in Africa and Asia. MOM purchased data for a reduced NGO price.
For information on media companies, the publicly available media outlet information was retrieved from the National Communication Authority’s website (link to library). Corporate details on shareholders, owners etc. were available at the Registrar General upon request and after paying a fee (25 GHC/ ca. 5$).
In order to guarantee and verify the objective evaluation, MOM worked with an advisory group that commented and consulted throughout the research process. It was composed of national specialists with a substantial knowledge and experience in the media and communications fields. Amongst others, the following experts were accompanying the research process:
- Professor Kwame Karikari – Dean, Wisconsin International University College
- Dr. Yaa Dartey – Deputy Chair, Editors Forum, Ghana
- Dr. Gilbert Tietaah – Lecturer, University of Ghana, School of Communication Studies
- Nana Kwasi Gyan Appenteng – Chairman, National Media Commission
- Ajo Yeboah-Afari – Chair, Editors Forum, Ghana
6. How is "most relevant Media" defined?
The main question is: which media outlets influence the opinion-forming process? In order to scan all relevant media, we included all traditional media types (Print, Radio, TV, Online).
The media were selected according to the following criteria:
- MOM focused mostly on media with the highest reach, measured by audience share. Basis for selection was audience research data for the most recent period available provided by GeoPoll (Print, Radio, TV; Q4 2017) and Alexa (Online, May 2017).
- The news worthiness and opinion content. The study focuses on general information with a national focus. As such, media with specific thematic focus (music, sport), social networks, search engines and advertisement were excluded.
- The selection based on these criteria initially consisted of plus/minus ten media outlets per media type (TV, print, online), with a focus on the radio market as it has the widest audience reach in Ghana. Shedding light on these most relevant media outlets already allows revealing tendencies in media concentration. More media outlets were and will be added – if they proof to be relevant in terms of their owner or of their influence on public opinion (read more - “How are media outlets selected?”).
7. How are the Media Outlets selected?
TV stations were selected according to their audience reach nationwide, based GeoPoll (Q1 2017). GeoPoll is the largest provider of overnight media ratings in Africa, delivering daily data insights, 365 days a year. Their Media Measurement service uses panel-based mobile surveys to collect audience measurement data for a sample of 2,000 per country/ day, including both national TV stations and digital as well as international stations.
Radio stations were selected also selected based on GeoPoll data (Q1 2017). Only radio stations that had a significant radio listenership nationwide were included. Regional radios were also included when they belong to media owner that have a nationwide network of regional hubs that together reach a significant audience.
Print outlets were included based on GeoPoll’s list of newspapers with the highest readership. Newspapers exclusively reporting on entertainment or magazines, published less frequently than once a week, as their influence on public opinion was considered as lower.
For the online market, primarily news websites were looked at as they build up public opinion. Social networks, online stores and advertisement websites were excluded, as they are not relevant when it comes to the editorial content and ownership. News websites that ranked high on Alexa were included, amongst them Ghanaweb.com [alexa rank=4], Yen.com.gh , Myjoyonline.com , Peacefmonline.com , Citifmonline.com , Modernghana.com .
8. Why Ghana?
Ghana ranks 26 (out of 180 countries) in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index published by Reporter without Borders (https://rsf.org/en/ghana), which positions nations according to indicators such as media independence, self-censorship, rule of law, transparency, and abuses. This result points at a relative high level of media freedom without major incidents against journalists or media freedom violations. However, risks to media pluralism through lack of ownership regulation and transparency can happens in the freest countries as e.g. market conditions might pose more subtle constraints to the journalistic profession. Ghana is one of the few countries where no Broadcasting law is implemented, that aims at curbing monopolization and concentration. Recent studies such as the FES Media Barometer Africa Ghana stated that the deterioration of the diversity of opinion in media is also caused by cross-
Ownership, which was perceived as worth researching in a more profound way.
Lastly, a strong local partner organization such Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) is one of RSF’s most relevant selection criteria as it presents the basis for a successful implementation.
9. Does the MOM only exist for Ghana?
MOM was developed as a generic methodology that can be universally applied – and potentially will be. Notwithstanding that media concentration trends are observable worldwide, implementation and analysis will first take place in developing countries. MOM was implemented in Cambodia & Colombia (2015), Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, Peru & Mongolia (2016), Serbia, Pakistan, Morocco, Brazil (2017). All country projects can be found on the global website.
10. What are the limitations of the study?
- No economic data: Market concentration based on market share could not be calculated since complete and credible numbers were not available publicly. Some print outlets shared them on request, which is indicated in their Media outlet profile.
- Official audience measurement data is not publicly available; it is being sold by research companies.
- Although data for corporate ownership are available at the Registrar General, accessing them can be costly and inconvenient.
11. Who do we target?
The data base
- allows each citizen to get informed on the media system in general;
- creates a fact base for civil society’s advocacy efforts to further promote public consciousness on media ownership and concentration;
Although data for corporate ownership are available at the Registrar General, accessing them can be costly and inconvenient.
12. What happens next?
The database is a snapshot of the current situation, contextualized by historical facts. It will be updated regularly by Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA).
13. Are there similar projects?
The Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom (CMPF) at the European University Institute (EUI) conducts the “Media Pluralism Monitor” (MPM). The EU-funded MPM identifies threats to such pluralism based on a broader set of indicators, covering legal, economic and socio-cultural considerations, taking media ownership concentration only as one of six dimensions. It assesses risks for media pluralism in the EU Member States.
Media Pedia is an ownership database developed by investigative journalists in Macedonia that served as inspiration for the Media Ownership Monitor.