State media lack funding and enabling legislation
Lack of clearly defined legal regulatory framework and irregular funding support has been recognised as key factors that hamper efforts by state media to effectively prosecute their public service role during elections.
Article 55 (11) of the constitution states that the state shall provide fair opportunity to all political parties to present their programmes to the public by ensuring equal access to the state-owned media.
Article 55 (12) says that all presidential candidates shall be given the same amount of time and space on the state-owned media to present their programmes to the people.
Article 163 also says all state-owned media shall afford fair opportunities and facilities for the presentation of divergent views and dissenting opinions.
Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII) state media monitoring report – STAR Ghana sponsored project – on reducing abuse of incumbency and electoral corruption in August said the provisions were being violated.
“The intent of the constitution is not being adhered to or adequately operationalised by various state media platforms,” the June to August 2016 report said.
“”State media platforms cannot pursue a commercial interest once the political campaign season commences,” the report added.
But a Private Legal Practitioner, Dr Eric Osae Oduro said lack of clearly defined legislations and regulations as well as absence of funding support largely made it difficult to measure state media compliance with the constitutional provisions.
He was speaking during panellists’ discussion on fair opportunity by ensuring equal access to state media versus commercial interest organised by GII in partnership with Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition, Citizens Movement Against Corruption and Centre Democratic Development – Ghana.
The session sought how state-owned media could fulfill their constitutional mandate to ensure fair opportunity through equal access in spite of their imperative need to purse commercial interest.
Dr Oduro said “subsequent national policies” affected existing regulations and undermined the original purpose of the state media, citing Graphic Communications Group – transforming from corporation to company – as one of the press houses affected by such later policies.
“The state media lack enabling legislation so it becomes difficult to measure compliance,” he said, and questioned how one would expect them to provide public service in the midst of inadequate funding.
He said, although government was not necessarily interfering in the operations of the institutions, there was the need for some appointments to the boards and through the public service commission to be ceded to an independent body.
Ghana News Agency, Ghana Broadcasting Corporation and News Times Corporation are the state media that heavily depend on government subventions which have seized flowing or flows intermittently.
The lack of funding support to those media houses are said to be hampering their effective coverage of the 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections.
“They [state media] need a lot of work to do to become actually independent,” said the Dean of Communication Studies, Wisconsin International University College.
“The state media no longer a reality,” Professor Kwame Karikari added.
He called for what he described as proper transformation of the state media to real public service organisations in terms of managerial, legal and editorial structures.
He cautioned that any attempt to sell the state media to private individuals would not augur well for national and public interest.
“I will be the last person to advocate sale of the state media to private hands, if we do the big wealthy people will scoop it,” making reference to business moguls and political bigwigs to serve their parochial interest at the expense of the state.
Professor Karikari noted that an independent state media served as the most important mechanism for fighting corruption.