The monitoring of electoral campaign language is a project by the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) with funding from STAR-Ghana. The project which was launched in January 2012 was informed by the increasing resort to indecent expressions among political activists in elections-related and general political discussions, particularly on radio.
The project involves daily monitoring of campaign language or expressions by politicians and activists on specific programmes on 31 radio stations across the country. The monitoring also includes assessing the conduct of the stations that are being monitored. To ensure that the monitoring is reliable and credible, a comprehensive monitoring instrument was developed through the support of language experts from the University of Ghana, the Ghana Bureau of Languages and a Consultant from the School of Communication Studies.
The monitoring instrument was presented at a public forum for validation by key stakeholders, including the National Media Commission, Ghana Journalists’ Association, Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association, Religious Bodies, Political Parties, CODEO, and other Civil Society Organisations.
Following the validation of the instrument, 31 persons were selected and trained as monitors of the selected radio stations (one monitor for each radio station being monitored). The selection of the monitors was rigorous and meticulous to ensure that known activists or supporters of political parties were not included, and also to ensure that those selected had at least, the basic requirement to understand and use the monitoring instrument. For example, all monitors have a university degree.
The main objective for this project is to contribute to issues-based and decent language campaigning in the 2012 elections, by monitoring and exposing political parties and activists who use indecent expressions and radio stations that allow their platforms to be used to verbally abuse others.
Major Findings/ Trends from Monitoring
From April 1, 2012, the daily monitoring of language-use on radio began. Weekly reports from all the monitors are analysed by the MFWA and the indecent expressions recorded are presented to the public through the media. This report presents an overview of the general trends observed so far with regard to the kinds of expressions used, the political party affiliation of those who made indecent expressions, and the radio stations on which indecent expressions were recorded.
Altogether, 454 indecent remarks have been recorded from April 1 to November 10, 2012. The categories of indecent expressions that are often used are insulting/ offensive comments (175), unsubstantiated allegations (145), provocative remarks (62) and innuendoes (26). Table 1 below details the frequencies of indecent expressions that have been recorded so far:
Table 1: Expressions Used
Types of Expressions Used Frequency
Insulting/ offensive comments 175
Unsubstantiated Allegations 145
Provocative remarks 62
Remarks calling for Confrontation/violence 21
Divisive Comments 8
Tribal Slur 6
Inflammatory remarks 5
Gender-specific indecent expressions 3
Prejudice & Bigotry 3
Political Party Affiliation
The main culprits in the use of indecent expressions so far have been affiliates of the NPP and the NDC. The figures presented in Table 2 below provide more details on affiliates of six political parties who were found to have made indecent remarks including the NPP and NDC.
Table 2: Political Party Affiliation and Number of Indecent Expressions Used
Political Party Affiliation Frequency
Note: The 53 ‘Others’ include radio stations that rebroadcast indecent expressions and individuals whose affiliation could not be established.
The 454 indecent expressions were captured on 26 radio stations. Oman FM, however, has registered the highest (106) number of indecent expressions over the period. The National Agenda and Boiling Point programmes are the platforms on which indecent expressions on Oman FM are usually made. Table 6 below provides details of these findings:
Table 3: Indecent Expression recorded on Radio Stations
Radio Station Frequency
Oman FM 106
Radio Gold 45
Angel FM 36
Classic FM 36
Adom FM 34
Kessben FM 20
Asempa FM 20
Peace FM 17
Skyy Power FM 17
Citi FM 16
Hot FM 16
Space FM 15
Royals FM 14
Ankobra FM 12
North Star FM 12
Fox FM 6
Radio Progress 5
Radio Upper West 5
Uniiq FM 5
Rites FM 5
Diamond FM 4
Obuoba FM 3
Jubilee Radio 2
Ahomka FM 1
Joy FM 1
URA Radio 1
Rebroadcast of Indecent Expression
An alarming phenomenon that has been observed is the rebroadcast of indecent expressions by some radio stations. The main culprit in this practice is Radio Gold. About a quarter (10) of the indecent expressions recorded on the station was rebroadcast of indecent remarks. Asempa FM followed closely with the rebroadcast of nine (9) indecent remarks. Adom FM (4), Peace FM (2), Angel FM (1) and Space FM (1) were also found to be culprits in the practice
Moderation of Radio Discussion Programmes
Generally, discussions focused more on issues and some moderators were very professional in the conduct of their interviews, in-studio discussions and phone-in segments. Some of them made proactive efforts by educating callers in particular, to be civil in their language-use even before their phone-in segments. Others made panellists/callers withdraw certain inappropriate expressions that were used while asking for evidence for any unfounded allegation made.
On the other hand, some hosts/presenters allowed their platforms to be used to make unsubstantiated allegations and verbally assault political opponents. Unfortunately, political activists and political party representatives who were often cited in the MFWA’s weekly reports as being abusive were used on a regular basis as resource persons during in-studio discussions or telephone interviews, thereby giving such individuals the platform to perpetuate indecency on the airwaves.
Males dominate in the use of indecent expressions. Out of the 454 indecent remarks recorded, 412 were made by males. Only 15 of them were made by females. It was, however, observed that more males were invited as in-studio panellists than females.
Perpetrators of Indecent Expressions
The under-listed individuals have been persistent in the use of indecorous expressions by using more than 10 indecent expressions each:
Mr Ernest Owusu Bempah (29)
Hon. Kennedy Agyapong, NPP MP for Assin North (23)
Nii Kwartei Titus Glover (13)
Mr David Osei (13)
Generally, discussions focused more on issues and some moderators were very professional in their conduct. Others, on the other hand, allowed their platforms to be used to abuse political opponents. It was also observed that some radio stations persistently replayed indecent remarks. As indicated in our weekly reports, the practice of replaying indecent expressions on radio tends to amplify such expressions and their potentially negative ramifications.
With less than a month to the December polls and political campaigns intensifying, the MFWA is still urging the media that as key players in ensuring peaceful, free and fair elections, the management; editorial boards; producers; and presenters of all radio stations should collaboratively ensure decency on their networks by insisting on the use of decent expressions by the people who feature on their airwaves.