INTRODUCTION Background to the study
Transmission of health information shape attitudes and behaviours and the adoption of good health practices..n Ithis regard, it is important for the media to understand and be well equipped with the correct health information in order to promote and educate listeners on good health practices.
According to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID, 2006):
The media is an important ally in any public health situation. It serves the role of being a source of correct information as well as an advocate for correct health behaviours. But before the media can take on that role it need to understand…the issues surrounding it, policy and practices, and finally, recommended correct behaviours, (USAID 2006).
Health is defined according to World Health Organisation (WHO, 2003) as ―a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being not merely the absence of diseases or infirmity.‖ Thus, information on symptoms, causes, prevention, detection and treatment of physical and mental illness as well as policy, law and technology relating to health can all be considered as health information.
The expanse of health and its importance and relevance, thus makes it imperative that a study is conducted to ascertain the coverage of health in Ghana and to take a keen look at the structure and elements of health messages, the categories of health topics and issues broadcasted and the reasons for the selection of these topics as well as their accompanying invited experts.
Radio thus was deemed as the most appropriate medium to study these on since according to Afrobarometer Survey Rounds (1999-2009), cited in Selormey, (2012), radio is the mass medium most relied on in Ghana with the majority of Ghanaians; seven in ten (70%), depending on radio for most of their political, social, economic and other information which includes health.
Cutlip, Centre and Broom (2000, p. 35) support the relevance of the selection of radio as the medium of study for this research even in the 21st century.
Once thought to be fading because of television and cabling, radio today serves a useful pervasive role in public information system. It is a mobile medium suited to a mobile people…It reaches the bedroom, the breakfast table in the morning and rides from work in the car, lulls us to sleep at night and goes along the beach, to the roads, and on fishing trips, a flexibility…[few]…medium can match.
The ubiquitous nature of radio as aptly described above places further emphasis on its importance as a medium that contributes to knowledge on various relevant issues including health.
Radio programming in Ghana
Ghana, after 12 years of military regime and state controlled media experienced an opening up of the political space and media space when the ban on private radio ownership was lifted in the early 1990s. This created an expansive and vibrant media landscape in the electronic media and most especially in private commercial FM radio (Selormey2012).
As at the last quarter of 2013, The National Communications Authority (NCA), had registered 339 FM radio stations to operate in Ghana, out of which 267 were in full operation with Accra alone boasting of 47 of these stations.
Radio is the mass medium most relied on in Ghana with the majority of Ghanaians, seven in ten (70%), depending on radio for most of their political, social, economic and other information (Afrobarometer Survey Rounds 1- 4 1999-2009, cited in Selormey, 2012). Support for the findings of Afrobarometer is evident in the Ghana Demographic and Health Survey 2008, conducted by the Ghana Statistical Service (2008). In the survey, 9,484 respondents were questioned on their exposure to print and broadcast media, both of which are considered effective in reaching the population with important health messages such as those on reproductive health and HIV/aids. They assessed exposure to media by asking how often a respondent reads a newspaper, watches television, or listens to the radio. It was found out that 76% of women and 88% of men listened to the radio at least once a week whiles 54% of women and 61% of men watched television at least once a week.
The data revealed that radio is the most accessed mass media in the country among both male and female, across all ten regions, ages (15-49), residence (urban, rural), education (no education, primary, middle/JSS, secondary +), and wealth quintile (lowest, second, middle, fourth, highest).
Radio programming in Ghana has evolved with many local stations incorporating large citizen participation using land lines and mobile phones, a new type of programming referred to as radio call-ins or talk radio (Tettey, 2011; Yankah, 2004; Boateng, 2004:16; Ruben and step, 2000 cited in Selormey 2012). The purpose of the radio-phone-in-programmes are designed to have listener participation by taking advantage of technological advancements in telecommunications in order to engage citizen and state in creative ways via voice calls, and more recently, text messaging, Selormey 2012.
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