Media independence in Ghana: the case of the Fourth Republic.
The media is often referred to as the fourth estate with the objective of making it autonomous of some society players whose activities seem to sway it from its traditional role of advancing the course of public interest. These dominant forces have intertwined internally or remotely into the very environment within which media institutions operates and seem to stifle their functions and independence. The general objective of this study was to explore the relationship between media independence and the legal, economic and political environments within present-day Ghana. Economically, this study investigated the impact of media funding on the independence of both government and private print media outlets in Ghana tagging advertising as it revenue generation source to determine agenda-setting and framing patterns. Furthermore, it explored whether the media has diversified its operations for revenue generation purpose and to what extent ownership tendencies impacts on editorial independence. Legally, it investigated the impact of media laws and the fourth republican Constitutional provisions on media independence and lastly, assessed the independence of the Ghanaian print media from the perspective of standards and professionalism. The study used an exploratory mixed-research method that combined semi-structured interviews and content analysis. Fifteen participants were drawn from the Ghanaian print media landscape composed of experienced newspaper editors, senior journalists, regulatory bodies, media associations, African sub-regional media organisation and media activists from academia. Twenty newspapers were selected equally from two government and private print houses respectively to conduct a manifest and latent content analysis of adverts placed in Ghanaian newspapers. This work was embedded in the theory of political economy. Transcribed data was organised thematically for analysis and presented in a narrative, tabular and graphical formats. Overall, the study indicated that Ghana‟s corporate community together funds media more than that of government. Funding through advertising impinges on editorial independence and influences agenda-setting and framing of news patterns. Furthermore, small sections of the Ghanaian media have diversified into other businesses to raise revenue to mitigate some of the pressures of that comes with reliance on a lone income. Moreover, ownership influences are evident in the landscape. The study also showed that though the Ghanaian constitution has made some positive impacts, some shortfalls were identified such as: The media lack a Right to Information Law; archaic laws still exist in the statute books; and huge court fines which cripples media outlets. Finally, unethical practices were evident in the media landscape and argued that legalities form a minimal part of the independence of the Ghanaian print media but concerns about their freedom is self-inflicted by the very media practitioners through their actions and sometimes questionable reportage.