The Changing Ghanaian Media Landscape
The story about the June 3 Disaster at the Goil Filling Station in Circle, Accra was broken on social media. People who weren’t asleep were the first to witness the gory scenes via Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the rest.
The following morning, we woke up to the scary and gut wrenching images as they flowed on social media. There was this particular one of a mother and child lying lifeless in the mud. The sight was so painful… That is the impact of the changing media. Stories about politics, sports, lifestyle etc. movies and what have you are all so freely shared online. Now as folks argue a point you frequently hear “let’s Google it”.
Previously, the radio and television stations would’ve broken the news and held listeners captive as the stories unfolded. Now what do we see? Citizen journalism!!! Raw unedited news, live on social media just as it’s breaking.
And what’s even underscoring the advance of citizen journalism is the rate at which people are dropping their yams to borrow from that fantastic Tigo advert. Mobile phone penetration in Ghana is ensuring that the high usage of Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Imo etc. is creating a huge ecosystem of communication.
These days, people receive and share a lot of the news, information and entertainment they would’ve received from the traditional media from social media and the impact of all these changes on traditional media is massive.
It means gone forever are the days when Accra would wake up to the dominant voice of a presenter or drive home with a Komla Dumor, Kwame Sefa Kayi, Gabby Adjetey, Fiifi Banson or Abeiku Santana or spend the night with Mama Zimbi. These days the number of radio and television stations makes it a near impossibility; against the backdrop of the dramatic changes on the media landscape.
Down Memory Lane
Growing up in the late sixties and early seventies, the voices and images of John Hammond, Robert Owusu and Beatrice Aidoo dominated the media landscape when Ghana Broadcasting Corporation held the monopoly over the airwaves. And the almighty one o’clock news gave you the lowdown on what was happening in the country. If you missed that, six o’clock was your next berth or the eight o’clock news. And there were the hourly bulletins in between.
Then if you wanted entertainment you had the likes of Uncle Frank with the Uncle Frank Show on Saturday mornings on GBC 2 Radio my big favorite; Joe Coffie and the Emperor Mike Eghan were also some of my favorites. Then you also had the Charlie Sams, Yaw Asamoahs and the don Carl Agyeman Bannerman who I had the opportunity of briefly understudying and appearing on his show. The original kuchoko warrior Samson Quain aka Puncho also earned his stripes as the first reggae presenter on radio in Ghana. The likes of Barbara Sam, Ebenezer Ampaabeng, Earl Ankrah and Akushika Acquaye took the mantle for T.V news and discharged their duties excellently.
During this period, the main source of news, entertainment and information was radio, television, the newspapers and the movies. You either heard the latest music in town on the radio, at a club, or a band performing it if you didn’t have a copy of the song. For your news, you got it exclusively from traditional media or word of mouth.
The Midstream flow
Tommy Annan Forson and Kwasi Kyei Darkwa transitioned into private media from their glorious days with G.B.C. These iconic figures heralded a new era of infotainment. Tommy Annan Forson’s days with Joy FM, will not be replicated so easily because in those days, morning radio was fun and infotainment. No politics!!!
K.K.D’s hallmark smoothness fed into the likes of the colossal DJ Black who has managed to develop his brand as the ultimate DJ for top class events. Since his advent on Joy at the dawn of the twenty first century, he still remains relevant.
The acolytes of the G.B.C era in the persons of Kofi Kum Bilson aka Nana Tutu Gyagu, Chairman Kwame Sefa Kayi and Fiifi Banson along with the Kwaku Agyeman Boafos were the vanguard following the privatization of the airwaves in the mid-nineties by Jerry Rawlings.
This period led to an era where the radio presenter suddenly became a mini god by virtue of the powers they wielded. Suddenly a presenter could make someone popular with simple shout outs.
Presenters began to create hits and stars and assumed awesome powers. They became kingmakers.
Kwame Adinkrah spinning your song on his show guaranteed a hit in Oseikrom, Loving Cee and Gabby Adjetey adding you to their playlist assured you of a break. In the political arena, an interview with Kwame Sefa Kayi guaranteed you a certain audience, ditto Komla Dumor. Komla’s incisive interviewing skills and lively presentation made him the veritable source of news and information for many in that generation.
Then the enigmatic Gilbert Abeiku Aggrey aka Santana strode onto the scene like a collosus from a fable of yore. At the time Santana came to Accra from Kumasi, Fiifi Banson held sway over late afternoon radio in Accra on Peace FM for the mass market with a struggling Adom FM playing a distant second fiddle. All this changed with Santana’s advent. Man, those days afternoon radio became a huge gospel rock show with worship and praises galore. Mixed into this was a witty and lively blend of infotainment.
[soliloquy id=”undefined”][soliloquy id=”0″]Another titan of the era was Akumaa Mama Zimbi who pushed the envelope with her style of late night adults only radio. Others like Doreen Andoh, Mark Okraku Mantey, Kwame Faakye aka Swift, Albert Owoo, Cox Tamakloe, Woodman da Chopster, Kofi Tsakpornu, Heavy D aka Klenam Anatsui, Black Santino, BB Mends the Virus, Kweku Sintim Misa, Odeefuo, Daddy Bosco and Culture B featured. Others included Naa Ajorkor, Rachel Nyann, Sony Dekker, Fred Chidi and Matilda Asante. The airwaves were heavy with others not even listed here.
During this era, the internet started its advance and the likes of ghanaweb and myjoyonline became sources of information, news and entertainment.
Today and beyond
Today due to the fragmentation of audience because of the numerous media channels available, the situation is changing. Yes you still have the capos from the midstream era – Chairman General Kwame Sefa Kayi, Kofi Kum Bilson, Fiifi Banson, Abeiku Santana and Mama Zimbi with Bola Ray and co. Young Turks are springing up on the frontline but the cluttered airwaves coupled with the shifts in media consumption and sources of news, information and entertainment is like a double edged sword offering opportunities to appeal to their audience while still cutting them off somehow.
In addition to radio or television, we are receiving a deluge of news, information and entertainment from a variety of sources. Friends and organizations are whatsapping the latest news, jokes, songs and links to movies, tweeting about stuff and facebooking.
Many a time, a story or a song is shared by the Ameyaw Debrahs, Ebenezer Annangfios, N.Y DJs, ghanawebs, myjoyonlines, ghanamusic.coms and hulkshares even before traditional media picks it up hours if not days after the story has broken. The bloggers are becoming the new stars.
Savvy presenters like DJ Black, Santana and co are podcasting, tweeting and whatsapping…virtually meeting their audiences wherever they are and connecting with them, reminding them of why they should make a date with them.
Down the road, there’ll be an evolution of the media person. Using the tools available, bloggers will be able to stream audiovisual content online and via the traditional radio and television channels in addition to the online channels and also utilize apps to ensure one stop delivery for their audiences.
The future is here, wake up and smell the coffee!!!