Written By: Akumun Emmanuel
Ghana, like many nations, has embraced the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a roadmap towards a more prosperous and sustainable future. In this pursuit, the media has emerged as a crucial ally, playing a significant role in promoting the SDGs and fostering public engagement. While Ghana's media landscape encompasses various forms of media, including print, radio, television, and online platforms, each medium has its strengths and weaknesses in supporting the SDGs.
Radio: Community Engagement and Grassroots Advocacy
Radio holds a unique position as the most accessible and influential medium in Ghana, particularly in remote areas where other forms of media may be scarce. Radio stations like Asaase Radio on which the weekly SDGHub program hosted by Center for Sustainable Transformation’s youth-led Young Reporters for the Environment, have actively embraced the SDGs, producing educational programs, talk shows, and news segments dedicated to sustainable development. They have successfully amplified local voices, engaging communities in dialogue and encouraging grassroots advocacy. The Ghana Community Radio Network (GCRN) for instance, has launched a project known as “Participatory Community Radio and the Right to Communicate - A Singular Pathway to the SDGs, (CR-SDGs).” The project focuses on training community radio personnel, advocacy, social mobilization, and behavioral change for the attainment of the SDGs especially in rural communities.
“Radio as compared to the other traditional forms of media, is flexible, diverse and has a wide reach. There are many people out there who may not have television sets, but due to technology, they're likely to use radio apps on their mobile devices. So it affords the opportunity of reaching a lot of people. The radio is also cheaper and makes it easier for breaking down complex SDGs technicalities by use of local languages. So the radio has a wider audience compared to other media channels”
said Asaase Radio’s Emmanuel Aboagye-Wiafe, the host of the SDGHub program and this year’s Think-Energy SDGs Awards’ Energy Media Personality of the Year nominee, when asked asked how well the radio serves as a tool for the promotion of the SDGs compared to other media.
Print Media: Informing and Raising Awareness
Print media, comprising newspapers and magazines, has been instrumental in informing the public about the SDGs and raising awareness of critical development issues in Ghana. Newspapers often publish articles, opinion pieces, and in-depth reports on SDG-related topics, creating a platform for analysis and public discourse. However, print media's reach is limited compared to other media forms, and access can be challenging for individuals in remote areas. There is a need to ensure more widespread distribution and effective targeting of SDG-related content to reach diverse communities across the country.
“As you're all aware, the media is the fourth estate of the realm. Our key function is to disseminate information, bring issues that affect the masses into the public domain and make sure that government or policy makers take action. If the issues are there and the media are quiet, there's no way the institutions responsible can work. We are playing the watchdog role to make sure that we continue to bring issues out until actions are taken to address them. And I believe that, once we continue to put pressure on those responsible, we'll achieve all 17 SDGs”
said Michael Creg Afful, the Editor of Energy News Africa on the SDGHub where he appeared as a guest speaker yesterday, when asked what ways the media can hold institutions and governments accountable for their actions where SDGs are concerned.
Television: Visual Storytelling and Behavior Change
Television serves as a powerful medium for visual storytelling, making it effective in promoting the SDGs in Ghana. Through documentaries, news features, and talk shows, television programs showcase success stories, highlight challenges, and inspire behavior change. Ghanaian television stations have made significant efforts to include SDG-related content in their programming, particularly on environmental sustainability and social issues. However, there is a need to diversify the SDG coverage, ensuring a comprehensive representation of all 17 goals and their interlinkages. Additionally, interactive programs that encourage audience participation and engagement could be further developed to foster dialogue and action.
Online Media: Digital Connectivity and Youth Engagement
Online media, including news websites, blogs, and social media platforms, has revolutionized information dissemination and youth engagement in Ghana. It provides an opportunity for real-time updates, interactive discussions, and global connectivity. Online platforms have played a vital role in raising awareness about the SDGs, promoting citizen-driven initiatives, and amplifying the voices of young change-makers. However, while online media exhibits great potential, issues of access and digital literacy persist, particularly among marginalized communities. Efforts should be made to bridge the digital divide and ensure that SDG-related content is accessible to all Ghanaians, regardless of their socio-economic status.
“When we look at social media, one of the key things that come to mind is the reach and the number of people interacting with your content. For example, the climate strike is one of the biggest environmental movements that started on and with social media. It started with one person, got to about two hundred people and now it is one of the biggest environmental Movements on the planet. It is putting pressure on the government to help tackle the issue of Climate change. You know that, the reach or what social media is able to do is something we haven't even explored to the minimum. If you look at the rate at which social media and climate change has gained popularity through this Climate strike, you'll realize that there is power in the use of social media. And it is something that we have to explore the most to be able to tackle some of our pressing environmental issues”
said Francis Boafo Asamoah from the Young Reporters for the Environment When asked how different social media is in terms of reach as compared to the traditional media forms.
Closing the Gaps and Maximizing Potential
To fully leverage the media's role in promoting the SDGs in Ghana, there are key areas that require attention. First, media organizations need to foster partnerships with diverse stakeholders, including civil society, government institutions, and the private sector, to enhance the accuracy, depth, and impact of SDG-related content. According to Michael, attaching reporters to the SDGs beat should be based on demonstrated competence in the area. In his words:
“One of the things we can do as media houses is to make sure that we look at the strengths of our reporters and assign beats accordingly. Once this is done, I believe it will ensure that the SDGs are better reported. Also, establishing an SDGs desk in our media houses and providing it with the needed manpower is also a way to go”.
Secondly, capacity building initiatives should be encouraged to equip journalists and media professionals with the necessary skills and knowledge to effectively report on the SDGs. Third, media literacy programs can empower citizens to critically engage with SDG-related media content, fostering a more informed and active public.
While each media form has made commendable strides in the promotion of the SDGs, there are gaps that need to be addressed, such as limited reach, content diversity, and digital inclusivity. By building stronger partnerships, investing in capacity building, and prioritizing media literacy, Ghana's media can maximize its potential as a powerful force for sustainable development. Together, the media, civil society, government, and citizens can work towards a more prosperous and sustainable Ghana, leaving no one behind on the journey to achieving the SDGs.