The 1992 Constitution and the subsequent repeal of the criminal libel law paved way for individuals to own media companies across the country. The new wave of democratic governance, where the right to free speech was guaranteed, stimulated the growth and upsurge in the number of media outlets. Since then, however, a new challenge arose around media ownership, especially as regards conflicts of interests by individuals controlling mass media with overt or hidden political affiliations.
What are political affiliations and why is it relevant?
Active political involvement and commitments may give rise to conflicts of interest for people who are involved in programme making or have any editorial responsibilities, especially if they deal with current affairs, political or public policy issues.
Three aspects are to be considered in each case:
- What level or type of political involvement? There is a difference between passive membership, being candidate for a party, holding a public office and to publicly speak or write on matters of political controversy.
- Media workers: what is the individual's job? Politically affiliated editors for news and current affairs programmes are most prone to conflict of interests. For other types of content, including lifestyle, entertainment, and special interests - like sports, cars or cooking, conflicts of interests might obviously be less relevant.
- Media Owners: what is the actual involvement in editorial decisions, programme or outlet policy? While the need for impartiality of those actively working in journalism or in other sensitive editorial positions is most imminent, the engagement of media owners in programme or editorial policy can vary. In principle a 'Chinese Wall' between the newsroom and the boardroom can facilitate the independence of content production from the owner's political stakes.
The Media Ownership Monitor creates transparency for the audience, which allows critical and informed consumption of media content. It cannot measure the actual extent of influence certain political affiliations impose on media coverage.
Every third media outlet has an owner with political affiliations
Out of all monitored media outlets, a third have owners that have political links or are directly state-owned. Political affiliations of owners are herein understood when a media outlet or company belongs to a party, a partisan group, a party leader or a clearly partisan person. Political activities of family members or other close personal contacts are also declared.
- Dr. Kwabena Duffour (Daily Heritage, GHOne TV, Agoo TV, Starr FM, Ultimate Radio, Agoo FM, Abusua FM, Empire FM, Kasapa FM, Live FM, and related online platform) served as Minister of Finance in the National Democratic Congress government under the presidency of the late Professor John Evans Atta-Mills.
- Gabby Otchere-Darko (The Statesman) is a member of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and a cousin of the President of the Republic of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo.
- The Blay Family (Daily Guide, News One): Frederick Blay is acting Chairman of the ruling NPP and recently appointed Chairman of the Ghana National Petroleum Authority (GNPC). Gina Blay, CEO of Western Publications Limited, was recently appointed as Ghana's Ambassador in Germany.
- Kwaku Baako Jnr. (New Crusading Guide) is a Member of the Conventions Peoples Party (CPP).
- Kwasi Sainti Baffoe-Bonnie (Gold TV, Radio Gold): The founder of Network Broadcasting Company Limited was a serving government official under the leadership of the former president, President John Mahama.
- The Agyapong Family (Net 2 TV, Oman FM, Ash FM, Spice FM): Stella Wilson Agyapong is married to Kennedy Agyapong, the NPP MP for Assin Central and Chairman of the select Committee on Communications, which is responsible for initiating legislation that concerns the media sector.
- Dr. Kwesi Oteng (Angel FM, Angel TV): The daughter, Franscisca Oteng Mensah, is the NPP Member of Parliament for Kwabre East. Francisca herself is listed at a director at Angel Broadcasting Limited.
State-owned enterprises: Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (Ghana Televison, GBC24, GBC Govern, GBC Life, GTV Sports, Obonu TV, Radio Savanna, Radio Central, Volta Star Radio, Radio BAR, Radio Upper West, Obonu FM, Sunrise FM, URA Radio, Apam FM, Dormaa Ahenkro Community Station, Twin-City Radio, Uniiq FM, Garden City Radio, Kaakye FM), Graphic Communications Group Limited (Daily Graphic, Junior Graphic, The Mirror, Graphic Business, Graphic Sports, Graphic Showbiz, Graphic Youth World), New Times Corporation (Ghanaian Times, The Spectator). Ghana Broadcasting Corporation also holds 7.5% in Multi Media Broadcasting Limited.
The legal outlook
Although no law bars any individual, including people of political affiliation, from legally running a media outlet, it was anticipated in the Draft Broadcasting Bill to address issues of ownership including owners with political affiliation.