Friday, May 11, 2012

Why the GH¢1m Ghana Media Development Fund is in limbo

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi     

The Ghana Media Development Fund is in limbo. Long after the government announced a GH¢1 million seed money to start the fund to facilitate media development in the country it has not taken off yet.

Vice President John Mahama announced the government’s intention to set up the fund on September 9, 2011, when he spoke as the guest of honour at the 16th Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) awards held in Accra.

And November 16, 2011, the Finance Minister, Dr Kwabena Duffuor announced the allocation of the funds while he was presenting the 2012 budget statement  in Parliament.

A great idea that would facilitate the healthy development of the media in Ghana appears to be still-born because as usual the politicians want to do ‘their own things’ with it.

The Ministry of Information wants to manage the fund! But it is ill equipped to do so. Besides, it has no good history of disbursing funds to the media as our recent history has shown.

For instance up till now, no one knows which group of ‘editors forum’ that the Ministry gave  GH¢150,000, even though speculations have been going about who handled the money at the Ministry and which specific journalists were given the said money.

The Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) has made it clear to the Ministry that it doesn’t have a good record when it comes to disbursing funds to the media. The GJA therefore, suggested to the Ministry to set up a Board of Trustees and put the Fund under the management of the National Media Commission (NMC). It is also on record that Alhaji Haruna Atta, publisher and Editor-in-Chief  of the Accra Daily Mail has written to the Ministry making a suggestion similar to that of the GJA.

The media is a significant player in national development, but in Ghana, the media is seen as an appendage to the highest bidder. Media organisations are run mostly as business first, which makes its social role opaque. Journalists are made to believe that ethics and social responsibility do not matter, but serving a ‘master’ is all that matters even if that meant threatening social cohesion and the well being of the masses.

The announcement of this fund gave some hope that, at that point the government was taking cognisance of the important role of the media by offering support, but alas it is support with a string. A string to be used to control the media and to support mercenary journalists and to borrow former Attorney-General Martin Amidu’s words ‘the rented press’.

If the case was not so, then the government must prove skeptics like me wrong and let an independent body manage the fund. As the case already stands, government is not being fair to a section of the media that is also making significant contributions to national development. Government advertising is unevenly spread, with ‘government friendly’ but often unprofessional media organisations getting a good chunk of government advertising while, some very high quality publications are starved of funds because they are seen as ‘unfriendly media’.

The future of this country can to some extent be determined by what kind of media we have and if indeed the government means well for the people of this country, it must do the right thing to develop the media by making this fund functional.

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