In a democratic society where the individual freedoms of its citizens are ensured and the rule of law dominates, the media is supposed to be free of government control, and to cover all shades of opinion without fear or hindrance. In such a society, as is prevalent in most countries in Western Europe and in North America, the role of the media in informing, educating, and presenting a platform for all voices in society is crucial to the practice of a democratic culture. This role exposes the media as a bridge, a liaison between the rulers and the ruled, a carrier of public opinion and a check on the excesses of the rulers. At no time is this role more important than election time, the time when citizens elect those who aspire to rule. More than ever at this time, the media must present the ideas and plans of political candidates in a clear, open, objective and impartial manner, so that the citizens can be sufficiently informed well enough to make firm decisions on who or which party to vote for. This is to ensure that popular participation is not merely reduced to a periodic ritual where the people just line up to vote for particular candidates on a certain day without making their voices heard.
In Africa the search for this type of democratic society is in progress after decades of tyrannical rule since independence in the 1950s and early 1960s. In such new emerging democracies the media, still mostly owned by the state, and by extension the ruling government, is still trying to free itself from the shackles of governmental control. This has however not been an easy task, as most governments are still not used to the basic freedoms enshrined in their countries newly-promulgated constitutions, particularly with regard to the media and its functions.
This study examines the performance of the broadcast media in Ghana s post-independence election campaigns, four of which have been conducted since 1957, from a historical perspective. The study discovers that with the exception of one election campaign period, the state-owned broadcasting system has not been generally fair in its coverage of political contestants, particularly in cases where the incumbent government, or a favourite of the incumbent government, ran for office. Inasmuch as this has been the case, it is hoped that with the establishment of a stronger democratic culture in Africa, the situation will improve with regard to media coverage of political activity. In Ghana in particular the demonopolisation of the airwaves with the establishment of private radio and television stations, with its subsequent market competition with the state-owned stations, is a healthy development that offers hope for the future. It is hoped that the grip of the ruling government on the state-owned stations will be loosened and all voices in the political spectrum can then be heard as mandated by the 1992 Constitution