The rot on TV and why media houses must collaborate with local producers

The rot on TV and why media houses must collaborate with local producers


The world is changing fast! Yesterday it was old media, today it is new media… people lose their jobs, new jobs get formed and those who get left behind are those who fail to adapt to the change!

We can’t blame anyone; because teaching an old dog new tricks many-a-times, is a task for the angels.

Let me take the time to break it down. A television station or broadcaster owns the platform that brings the shows you love to you. They are regulated by NCA or the National Communication Authority. The Producer is the one who makes the content or shows that is brought to you in your homes.

The companies that do this, are production houses. A television station can also double as a production house, but very rarely efficiently.

The advertiser is usually the company that pays to advertise on the show to get their product to you. What they pay is used to make the show. Beyond the Television, the producer may also take the show to other platforms like Video on demand (VOD) or even the Cinema, etc.

By the way, did you know that in Ghana, contrary to what happens in many countries, the private producer has to find money to make the show and then find more money to pay the TV station to show it?

In other countries, the station will either Commission and pay the producer to make the show or in many cases, there will be a collaboration between the parties –what one might call in business a win-win.

As a producer in Ghana, I just could not understand why I had to find money to do a show and then pay the TV station to show it.

The concept is so wrong in so many ways and here is why:

On the face of it, the TV stations seemed to have worked on a winning plan; albeit for themselves–sit on your ‘lazy butt,’ let the producer do all the work and find the money too to pay you and you get to show it to an audience who over time if you are able to pull good enough shows, will reward you with eyeballs, which you can use as stairs to getting into bigger advertising spend.

Never mind that many of the shows don’t belong to the TV stations in the first place. What the stations can do and do mostly, is to work with the dynamic of economy of scale and bring more value to the advertiser than the one producer can ever do off course.

In fact, there are many stories of TV stations going behind producers to get the advertisers on a show on their channel, which doesn’t belong to them. The producer soon finds out that the company doing the advertisements for their product will much rather give the money directly to the television station who can easily double how far any spend can go. After all, they own the platform 24/7.

The producer, excited that the show is doing well, soon however does the calculations and realize all their money is going into producing the show and paying for the air space to get it out. The producer gets fatigued and as the Ghanaian proverb connotes, ‘when the fool gets wise, the play ends.!

There is some relevance to specialization. Broadcasters are good at that, broadcasting. Broadcasters or in our case, let’s call them TV stations, may attempt to run massive production departments and many times are very successful at it. A number of things typically happen though.

The shows from the TV stations may not match up to the independent producer’s content, sometimes, due to expertise and mostly, simply due to the dynamics of running a channel and producing shows at the speed and value needed.

The channels soon realize it is not so easy to produce a show and remain consistent. It is a costly enterprise and involves a whole load more creativity than perhaps the channel can manage .

The easy answer – steal content online with no consequences or get cheap 3-10 run, knock off shows from abroad – and then someone came up with an even more disingenuous, but brilliant approach! Get local voices to slap local languages on these shows and bam! It is an instant hit!

I must confess that this also created jobs for voice artists in the country.

But this is what we forget– the producer or production house has probably gone on to become an importer from China. It is much more profitable and rewarding after all.

The producer, has very likely laid off all the workers and is now a commentator of some sort on TV or constantly trying to come up with another show that makes financial sense.

While all this is happening, the consumer is at first fascinated with the great foriegn shows and doesn’t realize that cheap things are always expensive.

The country gets fed with great and lousy content and programming alike that have no cultural value.

The country wakes up one day complaining about the downward trend of local values and culture; most importantly, not realizing that a family member is out of work as a consequence of that show he or she is now watching on television and laughing loudly about.

local productions get even worse comparatively and people lose even more interest in local content and films.

But why are they getting worse, probably because there is lack of opportunity and practice for growth.

Finally, both TV stations and producers alike also decide to hit rock bottom; sex sells.

All one has to do is to get 3 people in a room, with a bed nearby and talk about sex in ways that will make you go blue!

It is incredible that in Ghana, you can turn on your television set in the afternoon and find someone demonstrating the best sex styles and how to give a ‘mind blowing ‘blow’ job regardless of the fact that kids are watching at that time of day!

And who is to invest in appropriate programming that even brings adequate content to kids?

There again, our children continue to watch foreign cartoon shows about other people and cultures. The downgrade of self esteem continues unabated.

Education doesn’t only happen in the classroom and what one sees with the eyes on television is more powerful than the uninitiated can ever imagine!

Every time you watch a foreign program on your local station, know one important trade-off, you are giving work to someone in another country and taking away work from someone you may know.

Off course we live in a global world and all this is nonsense!

We do need to watch foreign shows, we need better content than what our local producers can ever give us and besides, globalization means that one may access any show online anyway.

We live in country that has so many unemployed people, even more now than ever. What is it that makes Mexico, India, China, America, etc, able to make those great shows that you love?

Practice, support, money, opportunities.

They create jobs for their population because these shows employ a lot of people with different skills set. Opportunities we are denying our own people!

But who should have this conversation?

What are we willing to sacrifice to get to the promised land? Right before our eyes, Ghana started great, but fell behind so fast.

We wonder about the success of Nigeria for instance. But did you know that besides money and a massive population, Nigeria has a local content law that requires at least 70% of what shows on Nigerian TV to be made in Nigeria?

In my opinion, like everything else that impacts job creation, opportunities for locals and our cultural identity and growth as a people -This is not a conversation for the television station. It is a conversation for the people of Ghana and the Government of Ghana.

What are we doing about this situation?



Juliet Yaa Asantewa Asante


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