Big Spender -
The State as a Media Owner
Like in many countries worldwide, media ownership in Ghana began with the state, that remains to be a leading player in the market until this day. The Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, the oldest known state-owned broadcaster, was in the hands of the colonial masters who used mass media to propagate government policies and programmes to the populace at the time. Since then, a number of media operations were launched by private individuals although successive governments dealt with the matter very differently. The promulgation of the 1992 constitution, however, and the subsequent repeal of the criminal libel law finally paved way for a lot more of variety and individuals including businessmen, professionals and politicians to own companies that run media outlets.
The Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC), the New Times Corporation (NTC), the Ghana News Agency (GNA) and the Graphic Communications Group Limited (GCGL) are the four media organizations currently owned by the state. They are registered as State Owned Enterprise (SOE) with the State Enterprises Commission of Ghana (SECG). The SECG has supervisory responsibility over all state-owned institution. The government appoints the Directors General of these organizations through the National Media Commission (NMC).
The Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC), which is the oldest of the state-owned media organizations, started as far back as 1935 with a single outlet called radio ZOY in Accra. Overtime, the organisation has grown into an institution with ten radio stations in all the ten regions in Ghana and six additional television channels with nationwide coverage. Especially, the GBC’s radio network, which has affiliates all over the country, is considerable regarding its influence in the regions. Also, GBC holds 7.5% of shares in Multimedia Broadcasting Limited.
The print media organisations under government’s ambit are the Graphic Communications Group Limited (GCGL) and the New Times Corporation (NTC). The GCGL, though fully owned by the state, is independent of government support by way of subventions. Just the other way around, the company pays dividends to government annually. The Daily Graphic, the flagship newspaper of the GCGL, is the leading newspaper in Ghana with a readership of over 2 million nationwide. In total, 72.2% of the readership turns towards a state-owned newspaper to get informed or be entertained.
The Ghana News Agency is a wire service with presence in all ten regions of the country.
Other than the European model of public service media (e. g. the British BBC), where, at least in theory, both governance and funding are designed to be independent from the state, in Ghana the budgets of the Ghana News Agency (GNA), the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC), the Information Service Department and the National Film and Television Institute are allocated directly by the Ministry of Information. According to the ‘Budget Statement and Economic Policy’, the Ministry of Information spent 24.3 mio. GHS (5.6 mio. USD) in 2016, while they projected over twice the amount 55.2 mio. GHS (12.6 mio. USD). The Ghana News Agency, surprisingly, came away empty-handed in 2016, meaning that they didn’t get the projected sum. The lion’s share went to GBC, a total of 21.9 mio. GHS (5 mio. USD) for salaries and expenditures. For the fiscal year of 2017, the budget statement foresees that GBC shall receive GHS 16.5 mio. (3.8 mio. USD) and the Ghana News Agency GHS 224,000 (51,000 USD).
The state-owned print outlets belonging to NTC and GCGL are self-sufficient and independent from government subsidies. However, they get a considerable share of state advertising, which allows them to comfortably survive in the cost-intense print sector.
State Enterprises Commission - Ghana (SECG) (n.d.). National Media Commission. Accessed 13 June 2017.
Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (n.d.). About GBC. Accessed 13 June 2017.
Stationary Office Dublin (2017). Budget Book 2017. Accessed 13 July 2017.