Ghana radio stations see benefits in digital tools

By Nana Appiah Acquaye, Accra, Ghana

Following the liberalization of the air waves in Ghana since 1992, there has been an increase in the establishment of radio and television station across the country. But the majority of them use analogue technologies, which - according to the National Communication Authority - will become a thing of the past come 2015, when Ghana moves its broadcasts onto the digital platform.

But for now most of the big and popular radio stations in Ghana, both public and private, rely solely on analogue broadcasting, where visual and audio transmission is done through sophisticated transmitters with 5000 – 1000 k/watts  power output and strong antennas with bays ranging from one to eight, covering a wide radius.

Although audio and visual analogue transmissions have been in use since 1965 and have had a tremendous and far-reaching impact on the lives of so many people, the growing availability of reliable and more affordable bandwidth is slowly starting to change the face of broadcasting.

Robust and reliable broadband internet are now being brought to Ghana by telecommunications operators like Vodafone, Glo and MTN, which has fibre optic cables all sited at the coastal belts of Ghana. However, only a few Ghanaian broadcast pioneers are taking advantage of this technological development to chart a new online course that could transform the face of radio in Ghana in years to come.

Although most radio stations in Ghana now stream programmes online through their websites, their presence online is not as effective as those who operate 24-hour online radio stations, where the impact is felt throughout the world as they communicate with friends, relatives and fellow country men and women in the Diaspora.

One of such internet radio station is Hotdigitalradio.com, situated in Accra. The station streams live radio shows from its studios in Kanda, a suburb of Accra. The station is picked up via satellite in the UK on Sky Audio Channel 0212, making it easy for Ghanaians living in and around the United Kingdom to access information on what’s going on at home.

S24radio.com is another new breed of online radio station, based in Dansoman, Accra. It now has a large Nigerian audience, since it is the only online radio station that can be heard live on Ray Power radio in Nigeria and Vibe Fm in Ghana. Its programmes cater for the Nigerian community in Ghana and also the Ghanaian community in Nigeria.

Easy outdoor broadcasting

Many radio stations are also taking full advantage of the internet by using Skype to transmit outdoor programming.

This innovative development in the broadcasting industry is now gaining ground as it makes outdoor broadcasting easier and less costly in terms of transmission.

Recently in Accra students and members of academia were given a feel of the technological experience introduced by on Vibe Fm, an urban radio station in Accra, during a UK Education Fair organized by the British Council at the Ghana’s International Conference Centre. Using the Skype platform, the Vibe fm crew were able to interviews UK educational institutions presenting at the fair, allowing them to advertise their institutions to the teeming urban youth audience of the station.

Foreign delegates at the fair expressed excitement about the innovative use of Skype by the Ghanaian media.

In an interview with BiztechAfrica, the Chief Executive Officer of Vibe Fm, Mike Cooke, noted that the new availability of internet broadband facilities in the country has brought down the cost of the internet broadcasting. He said he chose to transmit most of the station outdoor broadcasts (OB) via Skype because of its clarity and reliability. “Skype is very clear when used to transmit all programs. It’s the best way of taking radio to the people, irrespective of where they live, through fast, affordable internet access,” he says.

Exploiting digital technology

Van-Soul Noah Addy, an IT strategist and a Communication expert, told BizTechAfrica that the time had come for the media to take full advantage of the various technologies available to enhance their performance and coverage.

He said the internet had not yet been fully exploited by Ghanaians as a whole, since there were many other opportunities open to everyone on all the existing social media.

However, he expressed optimism that the country was on track to bridge the digital divide very soon.

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