The European Union Election Observer Mission (EU EOM) says Ghana has a polarized media landscape even though generally, the media landscape is vibrant and diverse.
According to the final report of the EU on the 2020 elections of Ghana, the Mission observed that currently 446 radio stations and 102 TV stations operate in Ghana, together with 49 newspapers in addition to a vast array of online media.
The EU Election Observer Mission (EOM) observed, however, that there are limited independent media in Ghana, in spite of the crowded media environment the country enjoys.
The EU EOM explained that the proliferation of the media, mainly radio stations in Ghana, is due to the allocation, during the past years, of broadcast licences by successive governments to their political supporters.
The report indicated that many radio stations in Ghana are either owned or directly linked to politicians or political parties.
This, the EU EOM says has also contributed to a drop in journalistic standards and ethical principles.
The EU EOM stated:
“As for the electoral media coverage, both state-owned and private media at national and provincial levels made efforts to provide access for minor parties, mainly through interviews of candidates, special programmes and debates. However, the NPP and NDC largely dominated the election-related information presented to voters. From 20 November to 7 December the EU EOM conducted a media monitoring exercise in order to assess the access granted to political parties and candidates in the media and whether this coverage was equitable and balanced. The mission monitored a representative sample of 13 media outlets with a nationwide reach, including the state-owned media GTV, Uniiq FM, Daily Graphic and Ghanaian Times, and the private media UTV, TV3, Adom TV, Joy FM, Adom FM, Peace FM, Citi FM, The Chronicle and Daily Guide.
“State broadcaster GBC overall provided a fair opportunity to all political contestants through various programmes aired by both GTV and Uniiq FM. Nevertheless, the EU EOM’s media monitoring findings show that GTV favoured the NPP by allocating it 26.2 per cent of airtime in its election-related news and programmes, compared to 15.8 per cent allocated to the NDC. Furthermore, the NPP and its presidential candidate benefited from extensive additional coverage on GTV (22.1 per cent of airtime) through news and live broadcasts of inaugurations and projects launched by the President or government representatives, often including campaign songs and messages. Focusing only on the coverage received by presidential candidates, the difference of airtime is slightly higher, with Nana Akufo-Addo receiving 33 per cent and John Mahama receiving 19.1 per cent of airtime in the state-owned TV. The tone of GTV’s reports, however, was generally neutral.”
The report went on: “State-owned Uniiq FM provided equitable coverage to both major parties (34.2 per cent and 28.6 per cent of airtime allocated to NPP and NDC, respectively) and their presidential candidates (39 per cent of airtime for Akufo-Addo and 32.6 per cent of airtime for Mahama). The tone of its reports was generally neutral. However, Uniiq FM devoted 11.3 per cent of additional airtime to coverage of government inaugurations and projects. The electoral coverage received by political parties and candidates in the state-owned newspapers Daily Graphic and Ghanaian Times was also equitable, with reports generally presented in a neutral tone. The NPP received 29.9 and 22.5 per cent of space on Daily Graphic and Ghanaian Times respectively, while the NDC received 26.5 and 29.5 per cent of space, respectively. However, Daily Graphic allocated 11.1 per cent of additional space to reports on government inaugurations and projects (2.6 per cent in Ghanaian Times).”
The EU EOM report further indicated that various degrees of imbalances were registered in the election campaign coverage by private media outlets.
The report said: “Election-related coverage by newspapers The Chronicle and Daily Guide was overtly biased in favour of the ruling party. While the NPP received 56.2 per cent and 60 per cent of space in The Chronicle and Daily Guide respectively, the NDC received 31.9 and 27.4 per cent of coverage, respectively. Furthermore, 51.3 and 27.5 per cent of reports relating to the NPP in The Chronicle and Daily Guide, respectively, were presented in a positive tone while 33.2 and 57.07 per cent, respectively, of reports relating to the NDC, were presented in a negative tone. UTV also favoured the NPP in its coverage by allocating it 45.4 per cent of airtime, as against 33.2 per cent to the NDC.
“No qualitative imbalances were observed in the electoral coverage of Joy FM and Adom FM, which presented their reports in a neutral tone. However, both radio stations quantitatively favoured the NDC in their election-related news and programmes by allocating it 52.4 and 41.4 per cent of airtime, respectively, as against 42.1 and 30.8 per cent of airtime received by the NPP. On specific coverage for presidential candidates, the quantitative imbalance on Adom FM was slightly higher, with John Mahama receiving 39.9 per cent as against 28.1 per cent of airtime allocated to Nana Akufo-Addo, while on Joy FM it was slightly lower (53.6 per cent for Mahama, 43.5 per cent for Akufo-Addo).
The remaining private media monitored by the EU EOM offered reasonably balanced coverage of the two major parties, both in the distribution of airtime and the tone used in reports.
“A large amount of political advertising was aired on radio and TV during the analysed period. However, and despite existing guidelines, the media often did not identify paid-for items. The clear labelling by radio and TV stations of adverts and paid-for programmes is an international best practice aiming to allow audiences and voters to distinguish political advertising from election-related information presented by the media. Overall, during the analysed period the NDC bought more airtime for advertising on radio and TV together (some 32 hours) than the NPP (some 25 hours). However, the NPP bought the largest amount of airtime on the five radio stations monitored by the EU EOM (64.1 per cent of airtime, equivalent to nearly eight hours of adverts and paid-for programmes, as against 35 per cent of airtime bought by NDC, more than two hours). On TV the NDC led the investment in political advertising on the four channels analysed (64.1 per cent of airtime, equivalent to more than 30 hours, as against 35.3 per cent of airtime bought by the NPP, some 17 hours). Adverts bought by the two major parties in the newspapers were much lower than in the electronic media, with the NPP gathering 85.9 per cent (some eight pages) of all political adverts published in the four dailies monitored by the EU EOM, and the NDC buying 14.1 per cent of the space (slightly more than one page).”