A publicly available website features a database of major media outlets, companies, and their owners, including comprehensive information about the media landscape in the country. The findings of the project are presented today, 25 July 2017, at a high-level media forum in Accra.
“The Media Ownership Monitor provides an unprecedented transparency of the Ghanaian media market. This is a prerequisite for holding our institutions accountable and for developing meaningful regulatory safeguards that will ensure media pluralism in the long-run,” commented Sulemana Braimah, Executive Director at MFWA, on the rationale of the study.
“The Media Ownership Monitor in Ghana shows that a high number of TV outlets, radio channels or newspapers, does not necessarily mean a pluralistic media landscape. When the audience turns towards only few media outlets to get informed, a handful of media owners potentially gain considerable influence over public opinion,” added Lisa-Maria Kretschmer, RSF Project Manager.
High audience concentration in print and TV
The Media Ownership Monitor (MOM) reveals a high level of audience concentration in various media sectors. An almost maximum concentration was found among the printed press, where the top four media companies (Graphic Communications Group Limited, New Times Corporation, Western Publications Limited, Business and Financial Times Limited) together reach 95.9% of the readership. Three out of four readers (72.1%) choose a state-run newspaper for information or entertainment..
Private companies on the other hand dominate the broadcasting sector. A high concentration exists in the TV segment, where the top four owners (Multimedia Group, Osei Kwame with U2 Company Ltd. /Despite Group of Companies, TV3 Network/ Media General Ghana Limited, state-owned Ghana Broadcasting Corporation) represent an audience share of 77.4%. The radio market is more diverse and ‘market leaders’ differ from region to region. Again the Multimedia Group and the Despite Group of Companies have a considerable market position by operating several nationwide outlets. 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.
Inconsistent and non-transparent ownership information
For a third of the analyzed media outlets, ownership data was unavailable at the Registrar General’s Department, where all business entities are obliged to register and from where information has to be released upon request. In those cases where data was available, it turned out to be incomplete, at times obviously outdated, with either changes in ownership not recorded, or inconsistent with other public information e.g. from the National Communication Authority (NCA). In some cases, media outlets were registered to a certain company at the National Communication Authority but now operate under the umbrella of a media group by their own accounts. This made it difficult to assert the legal status of some media holdings, for example of the Multimedia Group Ltd., as well as their relations to subsidiaries. The low level of transparency disguises market powers and complicates or even inhibits meaningful regulation of media concentration.
High-level politicians with ties to the media
Out of the monitored media outlets, a third are either state-owned or have shareholders with political affiliations, amongst them high-level politicians. For example, the acting Chairman of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP), Frederick Blay, is a majority shareowner of Western Publications Ltd., publisher of Daily Guide and News One newspapers. Dr. Kwabena Duffour, the listed shareowner of the Excellence in Broadcasting Group Ltd., was former Minister of Finance and Economic Planning in the erstwhile National Democratic Congress government. Also the Chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Communications - the body where legal steps concerning the media sector are initiated and discussed -, Kennedy Aqyepong, has direct ties to the media through his wife, who controls Oman FM and Net 2 TV as a CEO.
Women underrepresented in media houses
The research findings illustrate the extent to which Ghanaian media ownership and management is male-dominated. Out of the 25 monitored media companies, only two have female owners: Stella Wilson Agyepong for Oman FM Limited and Edith Dankwa for Business and Financial Times Limited. GAB Productions Ltd. and Western Publication Ltd. list a woman as minority shareowner. Both are wives of the majority shareholder of the respective companies. Women also rarely hold management positions: out of the 21 identifiable CEO’s, only three are female: Edith Dankwah for Business and Financial Times Ltd., Carol Anang for state-owned New Times Corporation, and Gina Blay for Western Publications. The gender ratio for board members of media organizations shows a similar picture.
Weak regulatory system
Scarce and incomplete ownership information as well as conflicts of interest between politics and ownership are phenomena that illustrate a prevailing weakness of the regulatory system. No safeguards are in place to prevent or curb media concentration, or inhibit political control over media ownership. Transparency regulation is partly in place, as the Companies Act was amended with beneficial ownership provisions last year. However, while comprehensive information on ultimate beneficial owners is supposed to be available for all companies during regular office hours, research at the Registrar General’s Department found a low level of compliance.
“The results of the Media Ownership Monitor emphasize again that the passage of a Broadcasting Law that provides both safeguards against media concentration as well as against political influence in the media is long overdue. This project sets the tone for an informed debate on the next steps to be taken”, concludes Sulemana Braimah.
MEDIA OWNERSHIP MONITOR: A GLOBAL RESEARCH PROJECT
Initiated by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the Media Ownership Monitor project is a global research and advocacy project to promote transparency and media pluralism at an international level. In Ghana, it was conducted together with the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA). The project is financed by the German government. Country studies were so far published in Colombia, Cambodia, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, Peru, the Philippines ,and Mongolia. In addition to Ghana, this year, MOM investigates media markets in Serbia, Brazil, Pakistan and Morocco. For more information visit the MOM website: www.mom-rsf.org
Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)
P.O. Box LG 730, Legon, Ghana. Tel: 233 302242470. Tel/Fax: 233 302221084
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Website: www.mfwa.org
Reporters Without Borders Germany / MOM Ghana project manager
Email: Lisa-Maria Kretschmer