Ghanaian media and our poor attitude to safety

I must commend Ghana’s media practitioners in their response to emergencies and up-to-date information delivery during national emergencies.

In fact, at certain times, the media arrives at the scene of an emergency before state emergency response teams such as the Ghana National Fire Service, National Disaster Management organization (NADMO), Ghana Police service and others arrive.

This is not to belittle the efforts of our state agencies but to stress the need for improved rapid response. The mention of improved rapid response brings to bear the numerous challenges state emergency teams face including unavailability of resources, limited staff and the usual “it was difficult locating the scene” or “the directions were scanty” or “we couldn’t identify the blue kiosk when we got to the junction”.

With the much-anticipated digital address system being rolled out, I believe these excuses will be history.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has recorded death of more than 1,000 journalists and media personnel over the past 10 years. Eventhough most of these incidences were recorded at war zones, others were accidental and recorded at non-war/violent zones.

Injury rate is also high and it’s important that as media practitioners, we commit to the adherence of safety procedures in covering high-risk assignments because most of these accidents are avoidable.

It was disappointing to see media personnel covering the recent gas explosion at Accra’s Atomic Junction which claimed 7 lives and injured 132 people with no protective gear. Some cameramen, reporters and drivers of media houses were seen at the scene in open toe slippers, chino shorts and t-shirts among others.

 

A journalist at the Gas Explosion sceneMedia personnel at the scene.

 Others were in long and short sleeve shirts, bathroom slippers and sportswear. On the contrary, officers from the Ghana National Fire Service and other state emergency agencies were dressed in their protective gear. As part of international best practices, scene commanders must prevent people without safety gears from entering condoned areas even if authorized by virtue of their position to enter. Unfortunately, so many people especially journalists were seen within the condoned areas with no safety gears. In other countries, Safety Commanders provide temporal protective gears to journalists on accident and emergency scenes to facilitate their work because of the hazards inherent in accident reportage but this is nonexistent in Ghana. It is therefore critical that as media practitioners, we are concerned about our safety and take personal efforts to promote it.

Cameramen at the recent gas explosion

A cameraman filming the scene of the Atomic Gas Explosion on7th October with no safety gear.

I asked a journalist why he was reporting with open toe slippers and no protective gear less than an hour after the recent gas explosion in Ghana’s capital city; Accra and his answer was that, “he was at home and had to rush to the scene”. Irrespective of our desire to serve the public and the competing spirit with which we break news and update our viewers and listeners, safety must be our priority.

Mediamen and women

Media personnel interacting with Fire fighters at scene of the Atomic Gas Explosion which occurred on 7th October.

Research has proven that managements’ commitment to safety is a key factor in determining the safety behavior of staff. Therefore, what measures have management of media firms put in place to protect staff during coverage of accident/emergencies? Are safety boots, safety helmets and other protective gears available for media staff especially those assigned to accident and emergency scenes? Do media owners invest in the training and retraining of staff on accident reporting?

Going forward, it must be acknowledged that emergencies are inevitable and I suggest the following 3 basic but important steps to protect media staff especially on-field staff who are assigned to accident and emergency zones;

  1. Media owners must ensure the provision of basic personal protective equipment (PPE’s) such as helmets, safety boots, nose masks, goggles etc. for journalists and other media support staff. Strict sanctions must be applied to those who do not use them.
  2. Media owners must provide frequent training for staff on accident reporting. In addition, management of news stations must select journalists amongst their team as special reporters on accidents and or emergencies, and ensure that such persons are equipped at all times to not only deliver the expected news reports but deliver them while complying with safety requirements. Management of media companies can provide on-field staff with extra PPE’s to be kept in their homes and cars to enable them cover accidents on the spot.
  3. Provide medical and life insurance cover. A very important element lacking in many of our media houses.

We must be mindful of the need to prevent accidents in our quest to report on other accidents. Our families and friends need us in full strength and good health.

 

The writer is a media practitioner and currently the Head of Shared Services at Global Media Alliance.

References

www.etvghana.com

www.citifmonline.com

International Federation of Journalists, 2013

Cover Photo : https://rorypecktrust.org/resources/professional-development/Negotiation-and-Best-Practice/safety-principles-and-practices

 

By : Timothy Karikari

timothykarikari@yahoo.com

GHANA’S DIGITAL MIGRATION; BENEFITS AND EFFECTS OF DELAYS ON THE INDUSTRY.

digital-migration

Digital television -an innovative approach to television broadcasting- has many benefits available to countries that adopt it. This piece seeks to share insights into four major benefits serving viewers, broadcasters, producers and advertisers respectively.

VIEWERS

IMPROVED VIDEO QUALITY AND CLARITY:  There is no doubt that digital TV comes along with improved picture and video quality. Signals are more compact than the analogue system and allows multiple channels to occupy the same airspace than the single analogue channel. Digital television will provide viewers with the quality of sound, images and videos needed to enjoy quality television experience.

With digital TV, one does not need to re-adjust an antenna as usually directed by local TV technicians as first stage in television signal troubleshooting.  One does not have to direct an antenna towards the transmission site of a particular station to get clear signals at the expense of other stations. A viewer has to simply turn on a TV with an antenna and enjoy quality TV with crystal clear pictures and sound.

BROADCASTERS

LESS FOCUS ON TRANSMISSION INFRASTRUCTURE: Television stations in Ghana compete not only on content but on infrastructure; an opposite of industry trends in other parts of the world where competition is strictly on content because infrastructure is standard for all players. Ghana’s era of television stations with tag lines such as “nationwide availability, total coverage etc. will be over with digitization.

Statistics at Brekuso- Ghana’s popular TV transmission site for most stations in Accra show that about 7 television transmission sites operate within 2km apart from each other.  All these stations have 24/7 security, standby power generators, water storage, mast, technicians, transmission halls and other important assets. Couldn’t a strategic and cost saving approach such as co-locating and sharing the running cost of the sites be adopted to ensure that the little revenue made from advertising due to the clustered nature of the industry is invested in content and staff remuneration rather than transmission?

In South Africa, television stations have no business with transmission because a reliable and professional firm maintains and manages their sites on contract basis. Ahwerase, a town in Ghana’s Eastern region noted for radio transmission has a similar case like that of Brekuso. There are about 10 radio operating sites within 1km radius apart from each other. Some local broadcasters are adamant to co-locate because of fear of sabotage by competitors. But I believe with the right systems and processes, such fears can be eliminated and co-location managed professionally by independent service providers with expected deliverables.

PRODUCERS

CONTENT DEVELOPMENT: With an equal playing field, television owners have no option than to compete on content. Digitization attracts broadcasting regulations such as prioritizing local content over foreign content and ensuring that prime time is dedicated to local content. This will improve the state and quality of Ghana’s production industry.

Production divisions of television stations, independent production firms and other sections of the production chain will benefit from this. Digitization guarantees the creation of jobs in the production chain ranging from producers, directors, actors, cameramen, props, location drivers, graphics and effects, editors, sales and editing.

It also guarantees massive development of our local movie and production industry. ‘Kumawood’, ‘Ghallywood’ and other private producers are at an advantage because there will be reliance on what they produce. Ghana’s National Film and Television Institute graduates and graduates from other production training institutions will be put to good use.

ADVERTISERS

ACCESS TO CREDIBLE TV VIEWERSHIP DATA: Strategic advertising and marketing decisions on television should be made on credible viewership data. Even though professional media research is gradually gaining grounds in Ghana, marketing managers of some brands make decisions on guts and personal orientation with no accurate data supporting such decisions.

In the past, media owners have accused media research firms of skewing data and results in favour of the highest bidder. Though such claims may not be factual, digitization affords the industry a cheaper and more reliable way of knowing viewership ratings of stations across specific times. It also affords credible data on television viewership necessary for national policy and decision making.  If managed properly, television license collection can be enhanced and improved with higher collection rates.

Telemetry -an automated communications process by which measurements and other data are collected- can be used to provide viewership ratings in real time. Similar to the publication of subscriber base in Ghana’s telecommunications industry, publishing viewership of television stations from an authoritative source such as a national platform would improve television competition among industry players and serve as a trusted source of data.

It is unfortunate that time-lines set by the Government of Ghana to migrate all television stations unto the digital platform were missed last year. Discomfort and hesitation accompanies change efforts but we must embrace this innovative change in our broadcasting industry to benefit from its numerous advantages.

The Ministry of Communications, National Communications Authority and other State institutions mandated to ensure television digitization is actualized must commit to this good and critical cause.

GHANA’S BROADCAST MEDIA INDUSTRY; OVERPOPULATION, DISREGARD FOR ETHICS AND PIRACY ON THE RISE.

satellite-dish2
Satellite systems

Ghana’s broadcasting industry is gradually becoming overpopulated and if necessary steps are not taken to revive the image of the industry to ensure standards are upheld, efforts and capital injected into such businesses may yield little or no returns.

According to the National Communication Authority’s current statistics, there are 93 authorized television stations in Ghana; an increase of about 32 percent from the 2015 statistics which had 63 television stations.

As for radio stations, the least said about them, the better. There are currently 345 commercial radio stations in Ghana competing for the same listeners and the same clients.

How will these commercial radio and television stations that have choked the airwaves be expected to contribute meaningfully to the socio-economic development of this country?  Can’t there be high standards and strict regulations instituted to protect industry players as implemented in other industries such as banks and telecommunications?

Without the necessary restrictions and regulations, the few good and quality broadcast media houses might close down or not be able to make enough profit to grow, expand and provide Ghanaians with the quality television and radio experience we deserve as consumers.

The effect of this is the increase in strategy imitation and no sense of originality in content and programming on our airwaves. You tune into radio and listen to almost the same style of programming across the frequency unless the few stations that originated unique programming and have sustained it for years.

When industry regulators and decision makers fail to protect businesses, unethical business practice, unfair competition, illegal business activities and loss of business capital is what befalls the industry.

To lay more emphasis, Greater Accra currently has 38 commercial radio stations in operation competing to attract the same listeners and clients. This has encouraged unfair competition practices such as piracy, extreme airtime price cuts and unethical media practice. Unfortunately, the regulatory authorities are unconcerned whilst media houses engage in such unacceptable business practices.

UNETHICAL STANDARDS ON TV

Some Free- to air Television stations in Ghana continuously broadcast box office movies being promoted at Silverbird. This does not only have tendencies to collapse Silverbird Ghana’s legal business and efforts to reduce Ghana’s unemployment rate by creating jobs but also brands Ghana as a country with no rule of law. In addition, by so doing we profess our inappreciation for the creative arts. The average Ghanaian viewer does not care about piracy and would be happy to watch a box office movie for free but is that the country we claim to be developing for our children? Sadly, some of these stations win awards, mentions and sometimes appear on listenership and viewership rankings out of surveys conducted by leading research companies.

Am I wrong to generalize that these stations lured viewers with their earlier pirated content and introduced original content strategy when they attracted the expected and acceptable viewership. Psychologists explain that similar to other mind engaging activities, television builds loyalty and easily maintains loyal viewers over periods of time. Stations that uphold ethical standard unfortunately suffer by losing viewership and revenue. Therefore, piracy is encouraged unfortunately because broadcast stations like any other business have bills to pay.

Whilst I cannot blame some of these research companies because their research is purely based on viewership and audience, I believe we deserve a performance rating system where business ethics, fair competition etc. are part of the scale of measurement.

What business and life principles are we imbibing in our students and young entrepreneurs? Isn’t content piracy as bad practice as cheating in an examination? If a student can be expelled from a tertiary institution for examination malpractice, why aren’t our television stations setting good examples and why are regulators not doing the needful. Piracy is unfortunately becoming the best strategy in launching a television station and winning audiences.

In recent times, any successful entrepreneur with limited consistency acquires a license and operate a radio or television station and most importantly does not employ professionals to manage and run the affairs of the station.  Is that how low and easy the 4th arm of government has been reduced to?

Ursula Owusu (Communications Minister) and Joseph Anokye (Acting Director General; NCA), please bring sanity to the broadcast media industry.

“Community Health Nurse” or “Nursing Assistant” – Semantics Prioritized Instead of Health Care

It is exactly 1 week since Community Health nurses in Ghana embarked on a nationwide strike to simply insist on the need to accord their profession the respect it deserves.

Their strike; a recognition strike in nature was necessitated by a change of name from Community Health Nurses to Nursing Assistants notwithstanding other alleged factors such as non-availability of needed resources for their work in rural communities, discrimination, impediments to career progression and upgrade of their education and knowledge.

IMG-20160606-WA0047

 

Eventhough I disagree with their decision to embark on strike without recourse to processes stipulated in Ghana’s Labour Act 2003 (Act 651) under section 162 which directs parties to an industrial disputes to settle within 3 days by negotiation or extended to compulsory arbitration if negotiation fails, I am worried about the antecedents to this strike and the critical effects on our nation.

Community Health Nurses prevent disease, provide direct care and promote healthy living by educating the public especially members of rural communities. They are known for their dedicated service in deprived communities under bad conditions; communities that many doctors, mainstream nurses and other health workers resist when posted to serve in those areas. The thought of pregnant mothers and nursing mothers queuing for pre and post natal services respectively since last week with no assistance is alarming and must attract the needed attention from the Ministry of Health and other Health authorities; only God knows when this will be done.

IMG-20160606-WA0034

On a scale of preference, are job titles important than the life and future of babies not getting the required post natal health care in rural Ghana because of this strike? Are job titles important than the health of our old citizens in deprived rural areas? If not, then why has the Ministry of Health and other Health agencies not intervened in this matter since last week? What is the hidden motive to change their job title from Community Health Nurses to Health Assistants? If the motive is for positive reasons and the general progress of the health service industry, why the change of name without consulting the leaders of their association. Communication is a major factor in labour disputes throughout the world and Ghana is not an exception. A simple matter that could have been collectively decided by all stakeholders turns sour because one stakeholder feels supreme and wants to “Lord” itself over the other. I am tempted to believe an allegation made by one of the Community Health nurses during their news conference last week in Accra; “Mainstream nurses have realized our relevance and our quest to upgrade ourselves for higher positions and opportunities. They therefore want to ensure there is a big gap between mainstream nursing and community health nursing therefore the proposal of the name nursing assistant”.

IMG-20160606-WA0042

When will we get it right as a country that the welfare of citizens is important than egos and the interest of individuals. Restore the good old name of our Community Health Nurses; the name that gives them pride to work for their motherland Ghana in communities and conditions where you and I may hesitate to accept postings,  give them the resources needed for their job and let this avoidable recognition strike end.

IMG-20160606-WA0039

The images inserted in this article are examples of what some of our community health nurses in deprived communities in Ghana go though to serve our Motherland.

IMG-20160606-WA0035

Long Live Ghana..

 

CAPTAIN PLANET ENDORSES Y107.9FM’S BEACH CLEANUP INITIATIVE

Members of the Planeteers Movement of Ghana, an environmental activist group modeled on the 1990’s Captain Planet cartoon have endorsed the upcoming YFM cleanup exercise. The cleanup exercise, an initiative of Ghana’s biggest youth oriented radio station and with support from the Environmental Services Providers Association (ESPA) is scheduled for Friday 18th December 2015 at the Labadi Beach from 8am to 10am.

According to Mr. Timothy Karikari, President of the group, the Planeteers partnered YFM because of their support for environmental projects initiated by the youth. He said “YFM is the biggest youth radio platform and with their consistent dominance in the youth audience, it is strategic for every youth oriented programme, product or firm to align with the brand. We believe that this partnership will support the Planeteers Movement to reach out to its core target, the youth and aid in its planned expansion and membership drive.’’

Launched in October 2010 by Laura Turner, daughter of media mogul and founder of CNN, the Planeteers Movement is a worldwide movement of students and young professionals passionate to make a change in the environment and society. Some successful environmental projects initiated and managed by the group in the past include; the iMatter March project; a demonstration against fossil fuels, the “1 month, 1 cleanup campaign” in 2012 and the “Youth dialogue on environment and job creation” at the Ministry of Environment.

Among its project earmarked for 2016 is the Planeteers Kids Art Project, a creative and environmental initiative that won funding at the 4th African Youth Conference on Environment and Sustainable Development in Togo with support from the Captain Planet Foundation in USA. The group strongly believes that arts are the right channel to communicate to kids and also kids are the hope of mother earth. This project has the potential of changing the lifestyles of kids thereby promising a better sustainable future for our world.