Ghana, July, 27th, 2017 (RSF). A lack of transparency and limited access to ownership information prevail in the media industry in Ghana. Conflicts of interest between media owners and politicians, and a weak regulatory system further pose a threat to freedom of expression in the country. These are key results of the three-month long investigative research that the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) have jointly conducted. The resulting “Media Ownership Monitor” maps who owns and ultimately controls Ghanaian mass media.
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.
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.
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 have 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 In those cases where data was available, it turned out to be incomplete, at times obviously outdated, with either changes in ownership not recorded, or inconsistent with other public information e.g. from the National Communication Authority (NCA).
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.
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.
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.
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: http://www.mom-rsf.org