The media is the most powerful tool to cause change in today’s world. Aside the basic duties of educating, informing and entertaining the public, the media have a huge task of serving as a check on government, politicians, the elites, business organisations and the powerful in the society.
In order for the media to effectively and efficiently perform the duties of being the fourth estate of the realm, it has to be free from those it covers.
It is the duty of the media to ensure accountability and transparency of government, protection of human rights and upholding the tenets of democracy in the country
The Ghanaian media has become the major contributory factor to political polarization in the country. Almost all the media organisations are being used as tool to channel interests of one political party or the other especially as election draws nearer.
The power of the media to set agenda, influence and create reality for people make it easier to get the populace on the side of which political party it pleases.
The media has then become the major tool used by politicians and political parties to influence the electorates to vote for them.
It is not surprising that majority of the media houses have become the puppets of some political parties in the country. But the question is why are some media organisations allowing some political parties to manipulate them regardless of their constitutional right to operate freely and independently?
There are various factors that compel the media to kowtow to the whims and fancies of political parties at the expense of the greater good of the society.
The media landscape is owned and controlled by the few powerful people including politicians in the country.
As a result, some media organisations exercise self-censorship and purposeful bias to produce content that conspicuously or subtly favour their favourite political party.
Journalists and editors dare not produce content or set agenda that criticise the political party their bosses have affiliation with.
Majority of the media houses provide the platform and fuel propaganda that favours their favourite political parties and those they have affiliations with, leading to bias and partisan reporting.
Also, the media depend on the same people in authority for ‘so-called’ credible and authentic information. Majority of the content the media produce is from government and public institutions. Media houses get content from press conferences, parliamentary sessions, state of the nation’s addresses and press releases among others. It is believed that, for factual and credible information, the media largely rely on government and large corporate organisations.
Prominence is one of the major factors in making news worthy stories. The same people the media has to be a watchdog over are the same people the media rely on for information. Some media houses fear to critically analyse or question policies of one political party or the other, in order not to find themselves in their bad books and get cut-off from getting official information.
Sometimes, the media organisation which would want to diligently be the watchdog of society, bark at corrupt government policies, bite and expose corrupt government officials through their reportage face both direct and indirect threats and harassments.
The media is handcuffed by advertisement with political strings attached. Media organisations need money to operate since they do not make enough profit by selling media content to the public.
No media organisation would survive on just putting their content out there. So they sell advertisements for survival. They exist to serve advertisers so as to be economically sustainable.
Sometimes, the kind of advertisement deal you get depends on the kind of political party you follower. Remember these powerful people live in a web; they are inter-dependable. Stakeholders of these corporate organisations also have political affiliates and would only give sponsorship and advertisement deals to media houses that align with their political affiliations.
It is be difficult for the media in Ghana to operate without government and political parties pulling strings to control their content.
Media houses have to detach themselves form political parties and partisan reporting and able to adhere to the codes and ethics of journalism. They should acknowledge that, the first responsibility of the media and journalism is to the society and for the greater good and well-being of Ghanaians and not politicians.