It has been both asserted and denied that the mass media have a substantial influence on people and cultures around the world. It may be recognized that the mass media are an influencing force in modern and modernizing societies.
In Ghana and other developing countries of sub-Saharan Africa, the influence of the mass media is evident.
The influence of the media on the public is likely to be deeper as Ghana’s media landscape transforms into a system of hyper-choice.
The continued exposure of media audiences to the media can have both positive and negative effects. Yet negative effects, such as the contamination of local cultures and the overthrow of the local media sector, are more common in Ghana.
In addition, the local media ecosystem is witnessing a rise in disinformation, political polarization and insidious hate speech.
Unfortunately, the National Media Commission (NMC) and allied media regulators cannot fully address the negative impact of the media on the public.
Media, information literacy
More than ever, it has become essential to empower citizens to resist the negative impact of media exposure through Media and Information Literacy (MIL).
MIL is a set of skills and competencies that enable people to use information and the media effectively.
MIL is an essential requirement for active citizenship in today’s knowledge-based society. People with knowledge of media and information can responsibly access, analyze, think through, use, create and share media content.
MIL is linked to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular Goal 4 – quality education and 5 – gender equality, as it provides citizens with essential information, media and digital skills for quality education , active citizenship and peacebuilding.
It also helps citizens to detect and combat stereotypes, hatred and racial discrimination in the media (online and offline). MIL is therefore a public good that must be supported and promoted for the benefit of society.
Countries such as the United States of America (United States), United Kingdom (United Kingdom) and Germany are increasingly integrating MIL into their education programs to ensure that children develop skills needed to decode media messages and use digital media early and effectively. The situation is different in Ghana.
Universities such as the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ) and the University of Ghana and civil society organizations such as Penplusbytes, DW-Akademie and the Africa Center for Media and Financial Literacy (ACMFL) have actively promoted the ‘NDE.
However, there is still a long way to go to achieve a NDE for all in Ghana.
Support for MIL in Ghana can take many forms. To begin with, formal and non-formal educational institutions in Ghana should be encouraged to immediately introduce aspects of MIL into their curriculum and gradually integrate MIL fully into their curricula.
Parents and guardians should also take a close interest in the media habits of their children and wards; they must also help young people to use traditional and digital media wisely.
In addition, media education specialists, experts and others knowledgeable about media technologies should continue to educate the public in order to increase the media awareness of citizens.
In addition, it is necessary to identify and support the categories of people most sensitive to the influence of the media, such as children, adolescents and illiterate citizens, to develop their MIL skills. Finally, the government can support MIL by improving access to information and media, including digital media.
The government can also build on the momentum of Global Media and Information Literacy Week celebrated each year to further engage stakeholders to advance MIL as a public good in Ghana.
The author is a lecturer at the Department of Communication Sciences, GIJ, / advocate for Mill.