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Prof. Amin Alhassan calls for urgent reforms to save journalism in Ghana

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By Gloria Amoh

The Director General of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC), Prof. Amin Alhassan says, journalism is unique among professions because it cannot restrict who can practice it.

Speaking at the 75th GJA Anniversary Public Lecture at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology’s Department of Language and Communication Sciences on June 18, 2024, Prof. Amin Alhassan explained that, it is clear that the importance of journalism in building our democracy cannot be overstated. “Journalism played a pivotal role in achieving our independence”.

According to him, we are at a critical crossroads regarding the survival of this institution. When media organizations face such risks, it inevitably has negative consequences for the quality of journalism in our country.

He cited an example and said “a newspaper older than Ghana itself, now facing difficult times. But this issue extends beyond one media organization; all media organizations today are experiencing severe challenges. It’s imperative that we initiate a serious conversation to save journalism from decline”

Highlighting on the historic significance of journalism, he mentioned that, journalism operated on a simple model: invest in production, attract attention through newspapers, radio, or television, and then market that attention for advertising revenue. This revenue paid journalists, covered printing costs, electricity bills, and provided welfare benefits for staff, ensuring journalists could pursue and report stories.

However, this model, which sustained journalism for 75 years, cannot survive the next five years. A new production model has emerged where there is minimal investment in production, yet significant competition for advertising revenue. Organizations like GBC, Multimedia Joy, and Media General invest heavily in content creation, but the advertising market has fundamentally changed.

According to him, as a country, we need to reflect on this issue to preserve the media enterprise. The economic health of media organizations will shape the future quality of journalism. I am encouraged by the presence of many young people here today. The future of journalism is at stake, and we need to protect it from decline. Journalism as an enterprise and institution must be safeguarded, as the economic model that supported it for the past 75 years is no longer viable.

“We need to engage in this conversation, as other countries have begun to do. They are demanding that those who do not invest in production share their revenue with those who do. This is crucial because platforms like Facebook and YouTube dominate advertising revenue by guaranteeing and selling attention”.

Turning to journalism as a professional practice, Prof. Amin Alhassan indicated that, Ghanaians have seen unprecedented proliferation of media outlets in the country, a development worth celebrating. However, this also brings challenges. Unqualified individuals often pose as journalists, undermining the profession. It’s the responsibility of all of us, including the GJA, to address this issue and ensure that true journalism is respected.

He also revealed that journalism is unique among professions because it cannot restrict who can practice. Unlike medicine, law, or engineering, the right to publish is universal. This makes it harder to maintain professional standards, but we must still strive to sanitize the practice of journalism to uphold its integrity over the next few years.

“As we are at a training institution that will produce our next generation of journalists, we need to consider the skills required today. When we recently advertised for a local journalist, we sought a multi-skilled individual—someone capable of operating a camera, writing for online media, and producing well-written content. This type of journalist should be able to shoot and edit videos, conduct investigations, and produce comprehensive stories. These complex skill sets are essential, and we must work with training institutions to ensure they are provided”

In conclusion, Prof. Amin Alhassan emphasized that, GJA can facilitate this discussion to ensure we produce the right type of journalists with the necessary skills. In today’s media landscape, organizations that do not prioritize digital and online content first will face significant economic and market challenges and risk becoming obsolete.

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