Tuesday, November 25


    This paper attempts to provide a subtle account of how political communication has developed in Ghana over the years from the early days of democracy till currently. It touches briefly on key concepts and strategies that have been adopted to get the attention and approval of the electorate as well as influential individuals and organizations in the democratic setting. With the fact that political communication is set against democracy, the paper will not consider military regime years. It will elaborate on how the concept has been understood by political players  within this time frame.
Political communication is an exceptionally rich, complex, fluid and important sub-field among those that populate the overall field of communications studies. As Jack McLeod and his colleagues (McLeod, Kosicki & McLeod, 2010) have often stressed, political communication is eminently a multi-level field.
At its simplest, it links political culture, political actors, media organizations, including the roles played by political journalists within them, and bodies of increasingly heterogeneous and varyingly involved citizens.
Over the past couple of decades, political communication has undergone dramatic changes, which are believed to have far-reaching consequences for the way in which democratic politics works. Never before have politicians put as much effort, resources and sophistication into communicating with citizens as today. The traditional mass media – broadcasting and the printed press – are equally confronted with a shrinking and increasingly fragmented audience, whose volatile tastes and interests make it ever more difficult for the media to secure their survival.
The changes in contemporary political communication can be understood as taking place in two distinct, albeit closely interrelated dimensions. The horizontal dimension describes the relationship between politicians and the media – that is, the political communication elites who together, but also in competition with each other, are creating and disseminating political messages for mass consumption. The vertical dimension denotes the interaction between the two sets of political communication elites on the one hand, and the citizens as the ultimate addressee of these messages on the other. Together these two dimensions of change encompass the triangular relationship between political actors, the media and the audience that has been described within the social and institutional space of political communication (Blumler & Gurevitch, 1995).
                              POLITICAL COMMUNCATION (BRIEF HISTORY)
With the invention of the printing press and the spread of print shops throughout Europe in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, a technical possibility emerged for expanding political communication that was not exclusively elite communication. But printed news and political opinion remained largely within the realm of elite communication until the mid-1700s, later in many countries. Church and state supervision of printers tried to keep pace with the spread of new technology. Only when representative government became institutionalized did political communications move from predominantly elite communications to the hegemonic and petitionary forms of communication that link governors and the governed.
Representative government developed in England and in the American colonies in the 1600s, but even there, it took another century to establish the principle that the public had the right to know what the legislature was doing.
                               WHAT REALLY IS POLITICAL COMMUNICATION?
Politics, in the broadest sense, is the activity through which people make, preserve and amend the general rules under which they live.
Communication on the other hand can be defined as the process of transmitting information and common understanding from one person to another.
Political communications therefore is an interactive process concerning the transmission of information among politicians, the news media and the public.
The process operates down-wards from governing institutions towards citizens, horizontally in linkages among political actors, and also upwards from public opinion towards authorities. It deals with the production, dissemination, processing and effect of communication both through media and interpersonally within a political context.
Franklin (1995) points out the broadness of character, the range and the lack of clarity of what falls into the concept of political communication. Franklin, in an effort, to operationalize this vast field, provides the following, very comprehensive and detailed, definition.
“The field of political communication studies the interactions between media and political systems, locally, nationally, and internationally” (p. 225). Franklin argues that political communication focuses on the analysis of:
a) The political content of the media
b) The actors and agencies involved in the production of that content
c) The impact of political media content on the audience and/or on policy
d) The impact of the political system on the media system
e) The impact of the media system on the political system development
Political communications has therefore always been central to the electoral and policy making process but in the last decade certain important structural developments have fundamentally altered this process, particularly changing trends in the mass media moving from the traditional world of newspapers, radio and television broadcasting towards the Internet.
Made up of political actors who are narrowly defined as those individuals who aspire, through organizational and institutional means, to influence the decision-making process . They may seek to do this by attaining institutional political power, in government or constituent assemblies, through which preferred policies can be implemented. If in opposition their objectives will be to obstruct existing power-holders, and have them replaced by alternatives.
•Political Parties, defined as aggregates of more or less like-minded individuals, who come together within an agreed organizational and ideological structure to pursue common goals. These goals will reflect the party’s underlying value system, or ideology.
•Public organizations; they include trade unions, consumer groups, professional associations. They are united by some common feature of their members’ situation which makes it advantageous to combine, such as work problems (trade unions), or the weakness of the individual citizen in the face of large corporations (consumer groups). In such organizations individuals come together not just to help each other in the resolution of practical problems associated with their common situation, but to campaign for change or to raise the public profile of a particular problem, often through enlisting the help of elected politicians.
Others include pressure groups, governments and terrorist organizations.
The second key element in the political communication process is the AUDIENCE. The purpose of all this communication is to persuade, And the target of this persuasion is the audience, without which no political message can have any relevance.
The MEDIA, today comprise print, broadcasting and online channels. In democratic political systems the media function both as transmitters of political communication which originates outside the media organisation itself, and as senders of political messages constructed by journalists and other producers such as bloggers. The role of the media in both respects is therefore crucial.
‘Politicians in Ghana have always communicated to electorates in very traditional ways by attending gatherings such as funerals, durbars, churches, parties, and organizing rallies in addition to making use of the traditional media i.e radio, television and newspapers.’ (Mr. Siaw ,General Secretary, , Progressive People’s Party). However, the space for political discourse was limited due to military insurgencies and inadequate media platforms, despite these flaws, certain political activists such as PAV Ansah wrote in innuendo fashion at the time.
The culture of silence was broken in the mid-90s, upon the liberalization of the airwaves.
The practice of political communication therefore became highly evident since the return to democratic rule in 1992, and gained prominence after the 2000 presidential and parliamentary elections.
The practice can be examined in two folds; namely political communications with  regards to electioneering campaigns by different political parties and political communication  with reference to government communication.
In order to adequately fulfill the requirements of the research question, the following tools were used and findings have been stipulated.
To have adequate information and thorough analysis of the demands of the question, the group employed unstructured interview and literature search as research tools in gathering information.
•Unstructured interview
An interview was conducted at the office of the Progressive People’s Party and our respondents were the General Secretary of the party, Mr. Asamoah Siaw and a member of the communications team, Mr. Seth Hammond.
•Literature search
Before and during compilation of this document, the group read and reviewed works largely on the internet and ‘Introduction to Political Communication’, a book by Brian McNair.
Our findings revealed that
•Political communication existed in Ghanaian political landscape but was not clearly structured and defined
Political communication before the era of the print media was done in many forms in the country among the governors, the governors to the governed, the governed to the governors and also between the governed themselves.
•The electronic era saw the rise of TV, mobile phones and radio which moved political communication to different height. This era provided the Top-Down approach where people who had access to the media contributed to political discuss. It also gave political activists the opportunity to cover wide range of people at a particular time. Quiet recently, political activists provided short codes where people can access information about their political party, ideology and policies.
•It is time bound. Space and time allocation makes it impossible for more people to contribute to the political discourse.
•The level of illiteracy in Ghana makes the print media a challenge for effective political communication with the masses
The rise of the internet has also changed the direction  and scope of political communication.
•Inadequate information on changing trend of Ghana’s political communication landscape in books and on the internet
• Bias by the PPP in relaying information because they are in opposition.
         News media organizations, political campaigns, and interest groups, as well as the tools and techniques they use to communicate with citizens, have changed. Political parties and politicians now have major interest in their electorates hence their communication is largely targeted at reaching them, getting their views and forming policies based partly on those gathered views.
This has brought about the increasing need to employ tools such as public relation tools, advertising, spin doctrine, political marketing and the use of social media for effective communication. The following techniques are being employed when undertaking political communication in Ghana today, thereby accounting for the changing trends;
First we will examine the trends with regards to elections and subsequently political communication in respect of government communication.
The rise of the internet and associated digital technologies and social practices is only one of the more visible manifestations of these changes. Social media like Facebook and LinkedIn has created a platform for political parties and politicians to engage their audience in a more closely related environment. With this medium, politicians and political parties are able to form an opinion of their electorates and respond to them to keep a close relationship. For example, the Progressive People’s Party , use the social media because, according to them, the youths who form a greater portion of the population use the social media on a daily basis.  The PPP although forms one of the smallest parties in Ghana, has a Facebook page with a total of 24,643 followers. 
Bolland defines advertising as the ‘paid placement of organizational messages
in the media’ (1989, p. 10).4 Political advertising therefore, in the strict sense,
refers to the purchase and use of advertising space, paid for at commercial
rates, in order to transmit political messages to a mass audience. The media
used for this purpose may include cinema, the press, radio, television and the internet. In recent times, the use of below the line form of advertising is used. For example, billboards. This was evident during the 2012 general elections as the various political parties advertised themselves and their messages on radio, television and billboards and sometimes through the use of celebrities, something prior to this era was non-existent. . Of course, as in the world of commerce, the advertisement does not merely inform individuals in society about the choices available to them as political consumers. They are also designed to persuade
Undoubtedly, image is perceived to be more important than it once was. Political public relations therefore reinforce existing political attitudes and behavior patterns. This is achieved through the following means such as media management. This can be defined as those activities designed to tap into the needs and demands of the modern media and thus maximize politicians’ access to, and exposure in, free media. These activities chiefly comprise the manufacture of media-friendly events which will tend to attract the attention of media gate-keepers, all other things being equal, and to keep public awareness of the party high.
Secondly, political communicators also employ image-management in their practice of  political public relations: on the one hand, the personal image of the individual politician, and how it can be molded and shaped to suit organizational goals; and on the other, the image of the political organization.  It includes such matters as the design of a corporate logo (a party’s symbol); the language used during political interviews and in manifestos; and the general work of a party when it campaigns in the public sphere. For example President John Dramani Mahama’s image during the campaign was purported to be a youthful one and the NDC party thought to be a populist one.
This is also another technique that has accounted for the changing trend in the Ghanaian political communication landscape in recent years.
Ghanaian political parties use the concept of marketing especially the four Ps of marketing to effectively reach their audience. They treat their policies and party images as the first P- Product where a lot of work has to go into proposing and bringing out their policies. The second P of marketing that is Promotion, involves politicians strategic promotional tools (largely advertising) to communicate to their customers (party supporters and electorates).
Unlike previous years, political communicators now see their audiences as consumers with needs that need to be satisfied and therefore aim at satisfying them through various ways. Parties have further shifted to door to door campaigning of their products(policies) in order to get closer to the masses.
Political parties now spend large sums of money and strategies into campaigns so that their messages will go down well with the electorates. This is not to talk of propaganda secretaries of political parties, and several other executive members who may speak to policy issues when the need arises.
At the Government communication level, there appears to be a growing sensitivity to political communication in this country: specifically the norms of communication, or standards of propriety in speech comportment. There is a collective realization that the spoken word may have done a lot to shape our political fortunes.
The politics of expediency becomes more pronounced by multiple voices that seek to shed light on public policy or public assertions by a President.
Besides this, however, there may be specially appointed government and presidential spokesmen, and presidential aides whose schedules and responsibilities are to represent government on media platforms. They are sometimes known as directors of communication, press secretaries, press liaison officers, presidential spokesmen, etc. Also there is an emerging trend is the position of spokesman for the vice president, (which appears to be a novelty).
Again, regardless of the channel or original medium of the discourse, public officials may momentarily switch codes and insert a local idiom, sometimes followed by an instant translation where deemed necessary by the speaker. Devices like proverbs, aphorisms, local metaphors, allegories constitute an enormous rhetorical capital available to public officials representing ordinary people.
The trend of public communication described above appeared in the late President Mill’s speech, after he articulated the Dzi wo Fie Asem adage, which remained a major topic in domestic and foreign affairs. The proverb and its interpretations had broader implications for political communication. It touched on the general principles of political persuasion, aesthetics of indigenous rhetoric, the framing of foreign policy as well as the political exploitation of ambiguity in proverb meaning.
The return to constitutional governance in 1992 helped to pave way for democratic practice, which was further enhanced by the liberation of the media landscape in Ghana, enabling greater popular participation in governance. But it also gave the broad masses of people greater access to the governance apparatus, as well as government functionaries.
The creation of an open interface between Government and the people has promoted strategies of communication that are in keeping with local norms and aesthetics. It has enabled public officers to position themselves through speaking, in ways that simulate or signal solidarity with the broad masses of people.
Although the phase of political communication has changed in Ghana, critics have argued that the system is being polluted with  a swath of ill-prepared spokesmen and communication functionaries (official and unofficial) who unleash a Babel of tongues at the least opportunity, and end up polluting public space, shedding more heat than light on party as well as national policy.
1.Introduction to political communication, Brian McNair, Fifth Edition,
2.Adams, V., The Media and the Falklands Campaign, London, Macmillan, 1986.
Robert G. Picard. 1998. ‘Media Concentration, Economics, and Regulation.’ In
3.The Politics of News: The News of Politics, edited by Doris Graber, Denis
McQuail and Pippa Norris. Washington, DC: CQ Press.
4.Assinder, N. (2007) ‘Big Brother Crashes into Politics’. BBC News, 17 January.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6270825.stm, accessed 25 January
This research was carried out by some students of the Ghana Institute of Journalism:
ADOBOR STELLA                          
ALORGBE BERNICE                   
NABARE JEAN MARY                
SATSI JULIUS KOFI