They are more importantly about the control of the hearts and minds of the people who make up the society. The ability to win over the hearts and minds within the society can no doubt be translated into tastes and preferences that favour particular goods and services, in as much as it can be translated into votes at the polls.
Clearly, the media ownership transformation that has manifested itself in Ghana in the last decade, speaks to an agenda to capture consumer preferences and to a lesser extent, galvanize political support in favour of certain political parties. Unmasking the beneficial owners of dominant Ghanaian media therefore helps to objectively decode media content and to understand the motive that drives a particular media house in its choice of content. In other words, we want to understand whose agenda the media is pursuing in order to determine how we respond to certain media content.
The Battle for the Middle Class
In the Marxian era, the term ‘middle class’ referred to the class of people in the middle of the social structure. In contemporary society it refers to those who by their income and influence in society fall between the ‘working class’ and the upper class. This is the group which shapes the destiny of a nation. They have the purchasing power, and shape public opinion. In the context of Ghana this group by necessity must have attained some level of education and therefore have preference for English language media.
The competition for the middle class audience, made up of professionals, businessmen and women, policy makers and the intelligentsia in the nation’s capital and beyond, has been mainly between Joy FM of the Multi-media family, and City FM of the Omni Media stock; even though Radio Gold and Choice FM were early entrants into this market segment.
For Radio Gold, we have over the years seen a drift in its appeal, from the middle class, towards lower middle class, mostly serving a group we will conveniently refer to as party foot-soldiers.
Choice FM on the other hand, remained in this market segment and held on to a marginal share until it was bought over by Dr Kwabena Duffuor, who has decided to turn it into a local language station.
Joy FM, arguably the market leader, is owned by Mr Kwasi Twum, described in some media circles as Ghana’s Ted Turner. Kwasi Twum owns in addition to Joy FM, Hitz, Asempa, Adom, all in Accra; Luv, Nhyira (Kumasi); Multi-TV, and Myjoyonline.
It is not clear what drives the ‘Multi-media’ empire. Kwasi Twum is not known to own other significant business interests apart from the Multi-media group, therefore controlling the market in order to direct preference to favour particular goods and services couldn’t be the motive for his investments in the media. Again, he is not known to have political ambitions or active political affiliations, and so political control can’t be assigned as his objective. Indeed, some have described the Multi-media group as ‘regime changers’, and this is the extent to which we are able to read into the motive for Kwasi Twum’s domineering influence on the Ghanaian media landscape.
The arrival of Citi, and JOY’s unease
Citi FM, arguably the biggest threat to Joy FM’s dominance of the middle class market segment, created some discomfort for Joy FM at inception. Launched with a number of poached staff from the Joy stable, and copying the Joy programme format, Citi made its mark almost effortlessly. The station is owned by Omni Media Ltd, a company in which Nick Amarteifio has controlling stake. Nick is also Chairman of Dannex Ltd, a pharmaceutical manufacturer. He is also said to be the co-founder and promoter of a host of business ventures in various sectors of the Ghanaian economy, including mining, telecommunications, pharmaceuticals and agro-business. He has an offshore oil company known as Chemu Power, and represented the Norwegian oil giant, Aker, whose block was transferred to AGM Petroleum. Nick’s relationship with Citi FM perhaps explains the rationale behind the spirited campaign mounted by the station in the matter related to the transfer of Aker’s block to AGM; and represents a classic example of how the media’s convening power can be appropriated to advance the business interest of its owners.
New Entrants into the Battle for the Middle Class
Other media outlets that are fast making in-roads into the middle class market segment are Radio XYZ and STARR FM. Radio XYZ came in earlier than STARR FM and was doing pretty well until the demise of its owner, Mr David Lamptey. The station remains in competition, working its way from the fringes.
David Lamptey was one of Ghana’s foremost entrepreneurs and a politician. He founded Sidalco, a fertilizer company together with his wife, Mrs Gifty Lamptey. Sidalco is said to be an example of a successful African business that showcases excellence in local entrepreneurship in collaboration with foreign counterparts.
In 2000, Mr David Lamptey entered parliament on the ticket of the New Patriotic Party. He later defected to the National Democratic Party (NDC) and still won a parliamentary seat on the NDC’s ticket, becoming one of the few in the history of Ghanaian politics to have switched political parties and successfully won parliamentary seats either way.
It is not clear what his motivation was for setting up Radio XYZ but given his love for politics and business, the motivation must have been to promote both his business interests and political ambition.
STARR – The Station to Watch
STARR FM is the station to watch. Managed by Kwabena Anokye Adisi, a.k.a. Bola Ray, formerly of JOY FM, STARR mimics Joy FM, both in terms of content and style – and it does it quite well. STARR is owned by former Finance Minister, Dr Kwabena Duffour, who has recently acquired Choice FM from its previous owner, Fred Oware, and re-christened it ‘KASAPA FM’, and intends to turn it into an Akan language station.
Prior to his appointment as a Finance Minister of Ghana in February 2009, under the Mills administration, Dr Kwabena Duffuor served as the Governor of the Bank of Ghana from July 1997 to 2001.
Dr. Duffuor worked briefly with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), as an Economist in the African Department. He has interest in over fifteen (15) businesses cutting through insurance, banking, media, real estate and farms. The notable ones are Star Assurance and Unibank.
It is not exactly clear what has been the motivation for Dr Kwabena Duffuor’s investment interests in the media. Starting with ‘Heritage’ in the early years of the millennium, the man has proceeded to acquire live FM, STARR FM, and is in the process of setting up a television station.
One can however draw a link between Dr Duffour’s investments in the services sector and his fast growing media empire. Adverts from the entities that make up the Duffuor business empire are carried almost exclusively on his media networks, recycling in the process part of his investments within his own