I am one of those Ghanaians who are not proud of the standard of journalism in this country. Ghana is one of the freest countries on earth for the practice of journalism, but inadequate investment and seeming lack of understanding of impactful journalism by media owners have resulted in a rather noisy and purposeless media landscape. As if that is not enough, most journalists in Ghana do not seem to appreciate the power they wield, so they are prepared to sell their conscience for peanuts and become the puppets of politicians and corrupt business people.
Once in a while, however, something exciting happens and ignites my sense of pride in in Ghanaian journalism. One of those moments was on Friday, December 9, 2016. It was two days after Ghanaians voted to elect our next president and 275 members of parliament. The Chairperson of the Electoral Commission, Mrs. Charlotte Osei, addressed the media late that Friday morning and explained some of the reasons why the results of the Presidential election were still not yet out. Mrs. Charlotte Osei also announced that the voter turnout was 49%.
Immediately after that press conference, Kojo Yankson, who was then hosting Joy News’ Election Headquarters, challenged the figure put out by the Chairperson of the EC. He told his audience that the 49% was certainly inaccurate and promised to bring them the right figure from the “engine room” of the Election Headquarters.
True to his word, Kojo Yankson returned a few minutes later with the right figure – 68%. He emphasised that the EC was wrong.
At this point, who should be trusted? Should his audience trust the Electoral Commission, which conducted the elections and had all the most credible figures, or the Multimedia Group, which was reporting on the election and tabulating its own figures? Ordinarily, the rational thing to do was to trust the Electoral Commission over the media house, but the Multimedia Group had shown over the years that it is on top of issues as far as the election coverage was concerned.
More than 12 hours earlier, the Multimedia Group had projected the Presidential Candidate of the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), Nana Addo Dankwah Akufo-Addo, as the winner of the elections. This was done even before the EC’s National Collation Centre put out the certified results of any single constituency. The Commission had put out about 50 constituency results and indicated that some reviews were to be done before they could certify the results.
Shortly after the announcement by Kojo Yankson that the voter turnout was 68%, Joy News’ Israel Laryea, who was at the Electoral Commission Headquarters reported that the EC had admitted it made a mistake with the voter turnout. The EC gave the revised figure for the voter turnout as 55%. When the Commission finally announced the winner of Presidential Election, it said the voter turnout was 68%.
The Multimedia Group was right! Its calculation was spot on, and it got its figures correctly even before it got results from all the constituencies.
The Multimedia Group projected Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo as the winner of the Presidential Election with a 53.35% of total valid votes. The Electoral Commission gave him 53.85% of total valid votes. Joy News projected 44.8% for President John Mahama and the EC announced 44.4% for the President.
There is no credible scientific research and rankings of how the media organisations fared in the 2016 election coverage. An audience survey will not fair because while Joy News TV is still in the box, its competitors are free-to-air channels. From the feedback on social media and references by civil society groups and international media, the Multimedia Group, once again, was peerless in its coverage. This is what Nana K. Gyasi Jnr said of the Multimedia Group’s coverage of the election on Facebook:
“Maximum respect to the multimedia group. Your elections coverage was a class act, a command performance and an absolute game changer. Yours was top class technology-driven coverage backed by a team that represented quality inside out.
“I was wowed to see Joy News TV put four live locations (Ho, Kumasi, Nana Addo’s house & the studio) in one composite picture on the screen – that won me over several times. As a village boy, it was the first time I had seen that on local TV screen…”
Abdul Hayi-Moomen of GTV News could not hide his admiration for the Multimedia team despite the fact that his station is a competitor.
“I have to admit that my big brother, Samson Anyenini, Evans Mensah, Dzifa Bampoe, Kojo Yankson, my little brother Francis Abban, my ‘enemy’ Manasseh Azure, Malik Daabu and the rest of the multimedia team raised the bar for election coverage. Congrats, guys.”
From my observation, one media organization that stood out aside Multimedia was the EIB’s GHone TV. I worked as a supervisor in one of the background team’s that produced Election Headquarters so I had the opportunity to monitor proceedings on all the serious television stations that covered the elections. There were about a dozen television sets where I worked, so I had a fair idea of what our competitors were doing.
Joy News’ Election Headquarters started the coverage very early, but when the voting started, the network that did excellently well was GHOne. GHOne had its reporters embedded with the candidates and all the important newsmakers such as former presidents. That station brought its viewers very clear images and interviews. In fact, during the voting, GHOne TV beat Multimedia and all other TV stations covering the election. At a point, those of us in my team came to a consensus that GHOne had broken Multimedia’s dominance in election coverage. With time, however, GHOne ran out of steam and Multimedia took control until the final results were announced. Nana Aba Anamoah and her team did a great job and if they continue this way, GHOne will grow to become one the TV station to watch.
TV3 did well by vigorously promoting its Election Command Centre. In the days leading to the election, the network unveiled what is arguably the most beautiful TV news studio in Ghana today. When it came to the real job, however, it did not live up to expectation. It assembled heavyweights as panelists for the discussions, but in the suspense-laden election coverage, too much of analyses become boring irrespective of how interesting the discussions are. The audience needs more information on what was happening, which constituencies were swaying in whose direction and where the victory was heading.
Metro TV, which did very well in previous elections, slacked in the 2016 elections. The election campaigns documentary by a group, which included Paul Adom Otchere of Metro TV, added colour to the election but when voting started, people were more interested in what was happening than what had happened.
The only time I listened to Citi FM was when I was going to vote after 2PM on Wednesday so I cannot assess its performance fairly.
GTV had a nationwide coverage, and having worked there, I know the state broadcaster has quality personnel. But its coverage of the election, as usual, left much to be desired. It was as if GTV did not plan for the day. UTV also started very well but it lost steam along the line.
With online, what happened on the Multimedia platforms fed myjoyonline.com with a number of breaking news stories. It was the place to be online but the Peacefmonline.com has the most appealing presentation of the election results. It makes it easy to read and analyse both the presidential and parliamentary results on the constituency and regional levels.
The print media is often beaten by competition from Radio and TV, but they have an option to be competitive online. Unfortunately, however, the online presence of the country’s top newspapers was not visible enough. In my view, the Daily Graphic was more visible online in 2012 than 2016.
Until a few months ago, GHOne TV was an entertainment station. If the station maintains the momentum it has gathered in the run up to the 2016 elections, the Multimedia Group will soon need to do something extra-ordinary in order to maintain its top spot as the leader in election coverage in Ghana.
The Multimedia Group relied on its staff and they were fantastic. Evans Mensah, Abass Malik Daabu and Raymond Acquah took turns to hold viewers spell-bound with their detailed analyses of the results that came in as they made reference to previous results. In the past there was no political comment without Ben Ephson. If media houses build the capacities of their members, they can be more engaging than the so-called experts we force on our audience.
The Finance Department of the Multimedia Group was instrumental in the success of the station. If owners of media would invest in researchers and people with specific skills beyond those who have the ability to read and write news, their output will be better.
We often accuse the western media of unfair representation of our continent. We are, therefore, the best people to tell our story the way we want it told. And it will take the needed investment and dedication of journalists to make this happen.
The writer, Manasseh Azure Awuni, is a senior broadcast journalist with Joy 99.7 FM. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed in this article are his personal opinions and do not reflect, in any form or shape, those of The Multimedia Group, where he works.