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NMC Records Bias In Election Coverage   
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George Sarpong
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With the electioneering campaigns gathering momentum, media outlets have an increasingly important role to play in keeping the public informed on which candidates they should vote for.

But a report presented Thursday by the National Media Commission (NMC) in Accra revealed gender discrimination with regards to media coverage of the candidates for this year’s polls.

The report indicated that male politicians contesting in this year’s crucial elections have received more media coverage than their female counterparts, even though the media, by ethical consideration, are supposed to remain impartial

The Commission presented these findings in a Media Monitoring Report (MMR) that collected data over the past two months from Ghana’s major news outlets —Daily Graphic, Daily Guide, Joy FM, and GTV, among others.

According to the report, males received 49 percent of media attention while females received just 11 percent.

Using this statistics, Kakra Esamoah, a member of the NMC and presenter of the report, said that a female candidate would have an 11 percent chance of receiving media visibility while her male opponents would have a 49 percent chance, a discrepancy that he lamented.

He said the bias might be a major reason more women do not win political seats, owing to the lack of female representation in politics.

“Any disproportionate coverage can harm their (women’s) campaign and electability,” he said. “How do we create an empowered society when our attitude toward visibility is this skewed? Mr Esamoah queried and underscored, “We will get nowhere in the fight towards gender balance if this continues.”

Others in the audience questioned whether the issue of female representation in the media is a matter of having fewer female political candidates in the election than their male candidates, but Mr Esamoah remained resolute that the media has a duty to ensure equal gender representation.

“If the media made more efforts, there would be more coverage of women,” he said.

The report also showed a divide between which issues the media cover and which issues matter most to the public.

According to the report, the five most important issues for voters are, in order, education, health, employment, agriculture and women and children.

The top five issues covered by the media were, in order, the electoral process, party dynamics, the national economy, international policy and corruption.

Mr. Esamoah was worried that the dissonance between public interest and the topics the media actually focus on might be problems, heading into the November 7 polls.

He also highlighted a statistics that showed that newspapers focused 49% of their content on the NDC party, while the NPP made up 28 per cent of content, and the Electoral Commission (EC), just 3 percent.

With regard to this skewed representation – especially with the EC, which is the actual manager of the election process and thus, an organization that people should be knowledgeable about – Mr. Esamoah said that certain issues and politicians may receive inadequate media attention.

“There are critical players in the election process who require a voice.

“The risk is that you go into the election and the voters don’t understand the mechanics of the voting process,” he said, adding that people can’t make informed voting decisions “if they (media) don’t speak about the issues that bother us.”
Source: Daily Guide

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