The media market’s liberalization, that came with the 1992 Constitution, as well as the rapid development in media technology has caused a dramatic increase of news sources in Ghana. Initially, it appears that this media environment is characterized by both diversity of ownership and diversity of content. But the mere quantity of sources does not automatically result in pluralism of opinion. Just imagine that, theoretically, out of a hundred available channels, 99% of the audience choses to use only one. This leaves one owner with a monopoly to present views and opinions – and thus with a major influence on public opinion. This is what's meant by the term 'audience concentration'.
Print and TV market face a high level of audience concentration
In Ghana, an almost maximum concentration was found among the printed press, where the top four media companies together reach 95.9% of the readership. Three out of four readers (72.1%) choose a state-run newspaper to get informed or be entertained (state-owned: Graphic Communications Group Limited & New Times Corporation, Western Publications Ltd., Business and Financial Times Ltd.).
Private companies on the other hand dominate the broadcasting sector. A high concentration exists in the TV segment, where the top four owners represent an audience share of 77.4%. These are
- the Multimedia Group operating Multi TV – assuming that it operates all the media outlets listed on their website;
- Osei Kwame – as he holds 50% shares in U2 Company Ltd. & 100% shares in Despite Group of Companies;
- Media General Ghana Limited – holding TV3 Network with strong TV3, and
- the state-owned Ghana Broadcasting Corporation.
The radio market is more diverse and ‘market leaders’ differ from region to region. Again the Multimedia Group and the Despite Group of Companies hold a considerable market position by operating several nationwide outlets, followed with some distance by Omni Media Company Limited and Kessben FM Limited. The state-owned Ghana Broadcasting Corporation operates the biggest network of regional radio channels as it has frequencies for all regions at its disposal. All in all, radio shows a medium level of audience concentration around the four market leaders that together deliver news to 44.8% of the listenership.
Few company groups dominate in all sectors
Cross-media concentration is found when media companies or owners operate a number of media outlets across various sectors – print, TV, radio, and online – which, combined and weighted according to the popularity of each sector, reach a significant audience. In Ghana, cross-media ownership remains still separated between the broadcasting and print sector. Only state-owned media and the Excellence in Broadcasting Network are active in all four media sectors. Major owners of TV outlets tend to also have radio outlets – which are connected to popular news websites. The print media is mostly run by owners and companies that focus on the print sector.
But still, regardless of the type of media (TV, radio or print), the audience clearly prefers content produced and broadcasted by only a few companies: the major four owners reach 86.7% of the audience across the nation. Multimedia Group is leading the way (33.9% of the TV and radio audience, weighted according to consumption habits), followed by the state-owned media companies that are popular in all four media sectors (21.5%). Osei Kwame was identified as sole shareholder of the Despite Group of Companies, as well as owning 50% shares in U2 Company Limited, and reaches almost a fifth of the audience. Media General Ghana Limited operates, by owns accounts, the popular TV3, as well as some regional radio stations (accumulated 8.5% of the audience).
Online audience shares could not be counted in as they are not available. However, as all the big media companies operate also popular websites, their influence on opinion is probably transferrable to the online world.
Lack of financial information – market powers remain secret
While audience concentration refers to the potential power over the formation of public opinion, market concentration looks at the economic strength of media companies. Market concentration means that some media companies manage to attract a disproportionally big share of money that is generated in the media sector, which can further distort competition. The indicator for the financial strength of a company is its market share – meaning the company’s percentage of revenue in the total market in a certain year. Again theoretically, if one company earns 99% of money in the sector, it would gain the leverage to force competitors out of the market. Those other companies in turn would lack resources for producing competitive, high-quality content and for defending their independence, but become prone to take-overs or influence of potential private investors and their interests.
In Ghana, the level of market concentration could not be established as financial data, for example on revenues, is not available. The low salaries for journalists, the lopsided state funding that subsidizes mostly state-owned media, as well as the constant rise and fall of ever new media outlets – especially in print – indicate an economically imbalanced, to an extent malfunctioning, even precarious state of the media sector.