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Introduction of media

The following paragraphs provide more detailed information about both the arrival and development of press, radio and medium of film in Ghana.

Newspapers and magazines

As indicated in the preface of this subchapter devoted to the matter of media, its birth and development in Ghana, the arrival of printed media to the Ghanaian cultural stage is attributed to the British and constitutes the significant part of a cultural heritage of contemporary Ghanaian population since in the past it served the purpose of controlling reality and actions of their oppressed ancestors, at the same time providing them with a powerful tool to propagate the idea of independence throughout the country, and consequently, after the release from the colonial oppression until present it has been playing a significant role of entertaining, educating and informing residents of their country (Jones 1974:78).

As for its genesis, printed media in the Gold Coast colony arrived before April 1822 with the first issue of Royal Gold Coast Gazette and Commercial Intelligence, papers launched by the first crown governor of the Gold Coast, and issued in Cape Coast, the former capital of the colony. However, after its founder died on the battlefield in December 1823 fighting against the Asante tribe (at that time the British were persistently trying to take over the territories inhabited by the Asante in order to expand the colonial dominion) the papers lasted for one year only, and were not followed by any until the advent of the Accra Herald , a paper issued in Accra in 1857 by Charles Bannerman. Since it was established by the grandchild of the Scottish officer and representative of the newly created Ghanaian elite, the paper supported colonial policy and exerted a “positive” influence on the educational and cultural sphere of life of its readers, the native population of the colony. The character of the newspaper contradicted with the statement carried by every issue which informed the reader that the gazette was printed and published entirely by Natives of the West Coast of Africa (Asante 1996:10-11).

Probably such contradictions as presented above, together with the growing discontent of the oppressed population over the abuse of their rights and numerous impositions led the journalist J.B. Danquah to launch in 1937 the West African Times, a publication whose journalists were not afraid to voice their criticism of the colonial jurisdiction and to encourage the native population of the Gold Coast to take actions towards gaining independence (Hachten 2001:34).

The gap of eighty years, however, does not mean that between 1860s and 1939s the press activity ceased on the Gold Coast. During this period of time numerous publications appeared on the coastal press market, yet the majority of them mild in expressing political opinions of their editors and mainly aimed at pleasing the colonial government.

Since the newspapers and magazines after the 1930s became independence-agitative, such magazines as African Morning Post and four journals launched by the future first president of the Republic of Ghana Kwame Nkrumah encouraged its readers, native inhabitants of the Gold Coast, to rebel against their colonial oppressors, the independent republic of Ghana was born in 1957 and the character and position of press on the Ghanaian market changed (Hess 2000:35).


The first governmental radio station, Station ZOY, was established in 1935 by the Ghana Broadcasting System and provided its 300 subscribers, inhabitants of the capital city Accra with news, music and entertainment relayed from the BBC, and shows in local languages. By 1939 Station ZOY had its followers in Sekondi, Cape Coast, Kumase and Koforidua. Moreover, a more powerful transmitter was installed which allowed the radio broadcasting to be heard through much of Ghana and the neighbouring countries (Hachten 2001:35).

Years 1936-1944 brought an increase in the number of stations relaying shows from five to sixteen and a shift of the type of information broadcast by the main radio station of the colony, which during the Second World War promoted the British war effort. As the end of the war was impending, the colonial authorities began to control the content of the relay stations, since it was feared to convey calls which might have pushed local people to riot for independence (Jones 1974:80).

Medium of movie

The movie arrived at the cultural stage of the Ghana simultaneously with the institution of radio, in the late 1930s, and like radio it was to serve the purpose of enlightening and educating the native residents of the Gold Coast. In its aspiration to “civilize” the native inhabitants of the colony, however, the creation of the medium of movie appeared to be more efficient and successful since it required neither the ability to read or write, nor funds to purchase an equipment enabling reception of broadcast information. In 1939 the colonial government established the Colonial Film Unit, the institution which employed the notion of movie to create loyal subjects out of the indigenous population of the colony by producing series of motion pictures promoting British views on farming, health care, human co-operation and village development and showing them free of charge to the local population throughout the area of their jurisdiction. In order to impart authentic character to their productions, colonial movies were shot “on the native soil with native characters” (Mensah 2002;26-28). As a means of distribution green-yellow Bedford busses belonging to the Information Services Department of the colonial government were used, which, apart from impressive speakers and screens carried with them local instructors, people who, if the language of the colonial power was unknown to the recipients of British propaganda, explained the content of a particular movie in a local language. The strenuous attempts of colonial government to convince audiences about the necessity of changing their customs and behaviour were, however, unsuccessful among the population of the rural areas, which saw the arrival of motion pictures not as means of education but rather as source of entertainment and technological novelty (Diawara 1992:26-28).


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