A lecturer at the School of Communication Studies, University of Ghana, Legon, Dr Anthony Bonnah Koomson, has proposed a shift in the reporting of news by the media, particularly during the run-up to the country’s elections.
He said in order to protect the public interest, the media had to clearly know and understand what that public interest was to enable them better protect it.
With a fuller knowledge and understanding of what the public interest was, the media could then make it a duty to place them before politicians who would seek the public’s mandate to rule in order to find out how they would tackle the issues.
Dr Koomson’s comments came at the heels of reports in some sections of the media that the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the dominant opposition National Democratic Party (NDC) were the only parties receiving greater coverage by the media, particularly the state-owned media.
These claims seem to have been bolstered by recent figures of a monitoring exercise by the National Media Commission (NMC), which showed that news on the NPP and NDC dominated all the electronic media monitored, all of which were privately owned, except Uniq FM.
The People’s National Convention (PNC) has been particularly bothered by the apparent disregard of some state-owned media institutions to its cause and some of its officials hinted at seeking legal resolution.
The immediate past General Secretary of the party, Mr Gabriel Pwamang, told the Daily Graphic that the party had decided to dialogue with the state-owned media that persisted in not giving fair coverage to the party.
He said a legal resolution of the matter would be the final action if dialogue failed.
Mr Pwamang said the party had empirical evidence, based on its own research, of how the state-owned media gave them little or no coverage.
For instance, he cited how the preparations prior to and during the conference of the PNC was made a side story on the front page of the Daily Graphic, but those of other parties had been the main front page stories.
In addition, the tour of the Presidential Candidate, Dr Edward Mahama, to the Upper East, West and Northern regions, had been reported only by the private and not state-owned media.
However, Dr Koomson was of the opinion that the constitutional mandate to the state-owned media institutions to give fair coverage did not mean that the media was to give parties publicity and awareness.
He said if those were to be the yardstick in judging how the media measured up to that constitutional mandate then that would be understating the functions of the media.
"Parties must not expect the media to be their public relations agents, following them around and giving them publicity," he said.
They must also initiate issue-related activities, to discuss issues that concern all and create the forum for media coverage, he advised.
To journalists, Dr Koomson’s advice was for them not to follow politicians about and just note what they said but probe for the sophisticated responses on issues that were of concern to all.
Meanwhile the NDC Member of Parliament for Tamale South, Mr Harruna Iddrissu, has credited the Daily Graphic for its reportage of the party.
He said the Daily Graphic had so far given fair and balanced coverage to the party; however, some other state-owned media had not done the same.
DAILY GRAPHIC, MONDAY, APRIL 21, 2008, PG 44