Not too long ago, my media colleagues (including the new host of Joy FM’s morning show) and I were in Parliament to meet with the leadership of the house. At that meeting, I was pleasantly surprise when Hon. Joe Ghartey, NPP MP and Second Deputy Speaker (who also served as Attorney General and Minister of Justice under President Kufour) told us that he had his first radio interview on Radio Gold in the lead up to the 2000 elections. I have heard same said by and/or about many leading figures in the NPP including Mr Albert Kan Dapaah, Dr Kofi Konadu Apraku, Kwabena Agyepong and even President Kufuor.
Mr Ben Ephson’s insightful political programme Ephson’s File, Kwami Sefa Kayi’s Lunch With Kwami and Kanewu shows, and Critical Analysis as well as the all day Wednesday talk programmes on Radio Gold did not spare officials of state who failed in their responsibilities. That was when Journalism was beautiful and most journalists seemed like fearless patriots of the land and spoke or wrote like they did not care even if their blood was used to water the trees of liberty.
That resilience, which I belatedly found out was a pretentious sense of duty to God and country, ignited an unquenchable passion in me. That passion led me to change course and study journalism, the profession that many applauded for contributing to the defeat of the NDC in the polls of 2000. I concluded that if a profession was that powerful to carry out a change in a regime that did not meet the aspirations of it’s people then I wanted to be part of it. That way, I can always hold whichever party is in government accountable.
Sadly, however, the first change in government in the fourth republic also came with a great change in the media; the otherwise critical and vociferous media literally lost its critical nature and high decibel voice. For many observers, that change did not only ensure that the media was practically in bed with the new government but had also changed their role from watch dogs to guard dogs. But for one media house, perhaps, the entire media landscape had turned. The NPP government’s bed fellow agenda with the media had been carefully planned and craftly executed with appointments as ministers of state, DCEs, Board Members, ambassadors, etc. as enticements. As a top up, the criminal libel laws were also abolished from our statute books. The grapevine is rife with other unverifiable social welfare interventions which made the media beholding to the new NPP government. As the government succeeded in getting almost every media house (print and electronic) to sing its praise and see no wrong, Radio Gold kept to its pre-2000 election position of holding government accountable. From 2001, the station had won more respect from its listeners and the praise of civil society and the international community for its fearless contribution to holding government accountable.
Whilst all other media stations, civil society and professional groups like the Ghana Bar Association and trading associations like GUTA gave an honeymoon period for the new government and yielded to all kinds of machinations and controls from the NPP government and its people, Radio Gold was unyielding. Stories that they coax or scared other stations including Joy fm to spike, Radio Gold took and called national attention to. Stories like the CNTCI Loan scam, Purchase of Hotel Kufuor, etc are examples. When the NPP failed in its effort to brazenly or subtly control Radio Gold, it resorted to dimming its relevance by branding the station as NDC-operated and stifling the station of government advertisement. It is common knowledge that Peace FM is an NPP affiliated station and though multi-media has been accused by various incumbent governments many objective observers will clearly admit that they are more disposed towards the NPP compared to the NDC. News consumers do not care much about ownership or affiliations, that is why Peace FM will be easily listened to by one who does not sympathize with NPP, that is why an NDC person who is fully convinced that Joy fm and Daily Guide are biased against his/her party will still not mind consuming news from those sources. What some people, including some supporters or sympathizers of a political party, are uncomfortable about is when a station’s content is said to be determined by a political party.
That is what the NPP in government succeeded in doing to the Radio Gold brand. Interestingly, they have done same to their own MP Kennedy Agyepong-owned Oman FM just to satisfy their naive supporters who believed the propaganda against Radio Gold and so questioned why they could not also operate their own radio station. Do not tell me ownership has anything to do with the perception of bias. Because my experiences at Citi FM where I worked with Kwame Gyan and Radio Gold leaves me convinced that ownership’s supposed influence on content is exaggerated.
It is given that the NPP is best at branding. They can sell winter coats in Tamale to make a living. With their media friends, they can sensationalize goats mating and make you believe that a snake saved a drowning a fish. When their branding machine picks you, it transmogrifies you. That is how they turned Kwesi Pratt Jnr from a messianic journalist before 2001 into a “reckless black polythene bag-collecting journalist” when he dared to criticise them after working for/ with them to come to power; they turned the once “dreaded” Baby Ansabah of Daily Guide before 2009 into a mere sell out who until today struggles to be taken seriously by society because he dared to speak against the NPP. They successfully have removed Haruna Attah from the class of respected veteran journalists because like Amb. Kabral Blay Amihere of the CPP/NPP, he accepted an ambassadorial appointment from an NDC government. Alfred Ogbamey was ridiculed to a point of almost irrelevance and he had to look and find a different job outside mainstream media simply because after 2011 a couple of times he had cause to disagree with the NPP, a party he vehemently defended with his pen and appearances on radio and television. For him to remain relevant, Randy Abbey ,who unashamedly took sides with the NPP in most media battles between the two parties in the past, has been scared into a neutral position today, even though it is not a secret that he has become sympathetic towards the current NDC administration.
Only a couple of weeks ago in an interview with Pollster and Editor, Ben Ephson, he lamented on radio about how the NPP machine is ruthless to critics of the party.
He compared his experiences from predicting election results based on his conducted polls for the NPP and NDC in 2004, 2008 and 2012 and concluded that the NPP was most unforgiving and destructive of its critics. Heck, if you are still in doubt just do a character assessment of the electoral commissioner Dr. Kwadwo Afari Gyan before the 2008 elections and now. You cannot miss how much his reputation has been badly shredded from the time the NPP lost power in 2008 to date. You may also want to speak to Mr Kwame Pianim, a renowned Ghanaian economist and a founding member of the NPP.
Not long ago, Gabby Asare Otchere Darko on his facebook wall sought to ridicule Mr Pianim by asking whether there is a school or course that awards the title renowned economist, a title they crafted and awarded to Mr Pianim when it was convenient to use him to criticise the Rawlings government handling of the economy.
When I had an offer to join the Radio Gold team whilst I was with Citi FM, I solicited advice at separate times and places from two of my admirers at the time. They were like my big brothers too, Mohammed Amin Anta and Boniface Abubakar Sadique, both of the NPP. They both said I was a great upcoming journalist but if I associated with Radio Gold, I would destroy my potential. Their only reason was that many will not listen to me before they pass a judgment on my level of competence. “The tag was bad”, they argued. They were right and after many years of defying their advice the fact that the likes of Kwame Gyan who seem open-minded will never listen to the station but assumes they know everything it reports and who it broadcasts to based on that propagandist branding makes me smile always at their benightedness. I do not blame such people because the branding was effectively done using tools like the one Hannah Tetteh might have employed against Joy FM.
It started with the government officials of the NPP including those who had their first shot at radio on Radio Gold declining to speak to the station. They deliberately accused the station of bias and the unfair twisting of what they say on the station. Almost all appointees, including party executives, started to boycott the station, compelling the station for a long time to depend solely on NDC, CPP, PNC and other parties for resource persons to have political discussions.
Even though I will not recommend it because it is a bad strategy and a sign of intolerance, the NDC as a government and party can achieve the same result with Joy FM as the NPP did with Radio Gold, if they all decided to do as Hannah Tetteh has done. The NPP used to tell Radio Gold reporters to “listen to Joy FM” if they wanted their response on a national issues. Radio Gold did. Sometimes the station collected and played back such interviews from Joy FM and others after which the then host,James Agyenim-Boateng, asked the questions that he and the station thought still stood unanswered on air. That is why I agree with Kwame Gyan, but in reference to different people, when he concludes that carrying oneself around like an over-pampered child denied a candy does not help. The sulking and clamor for sympathy are ignoble conducts. Dzifa Bampoe and I exchanged contacts and recorded interviews and shows all the time, why the station will make a big fuss on this occasion befuddles me.
The porosity of Kwame’s suggestion which pathetically is believed by some level-headed-looking people that by speaking to Radio Gold one only speaks to NDC sympathizers and not all Ghanaians, I think, has been exposed by a young admirable journalist in Tamale, Nash Iddi, and I should not be saying anything beyond stating that Radio Gold broadcast freely and no one needs an NDC card to tune in. Yes many surveys show that majority of NDC people listen to Radio Gold but same surveys also show majority of NPP people will choose Joy FM or Peace FM over any other station. If that does not mean they are broadcasting to only NPP people how can it be said that Radio Gold is broadcasting to only NDC people? Because i have had a similar private discussion with Kwame Gyan before, I will not go into the level of professionalism of both stations except to say as the elders do that “when your neighbor is wrong, you point a finger and when you are wrong you hide”.
To those who do not understand why Radio Gold despite its limited coverage on air and online and the vilification and wicked branding over the years has remained one of the top ten stations in every survey in a country of over 200 Radio stations, let me conclude by saying that “it takes a long time for a beautiful person to know why they like an ugly person”.