It has been both affirmed and denied that mass media has a substantial influence on people and cultures worldwide. It will perhaps be admitted that the mass media is an influential force in modern and modernising societies.
In Ghana and other developing nations in the sub-Saharan Africa, the influence of the mass media is conspicuous.
Media influence on audiences is likely to be more profound as Ghana's media landscape metamorphoses into a hyper-choice system.
Media audiences' continuous exposure to media may lead to both positive and negative effects. Still, adverse effects, such as the contamination of local cultures and the local media sector's toppling are more common in Ghana.
In addition, the local media ecosystem is witnessing a surge in misinformation, political polarisation and insidious hate speech.
Unfortunately, the National Media Commission (NMC) and allied media regulators cannot fully address the media's adverse impact on audiences.
Media, information literacy
More than ever, it has become critical to empower citizens to resist the adverse impact of media exposure through Media and Information Literacy (MIL).
MIL is a set of skills and competencies that enables people to use information and media effectively.
MIL is an essential requirement for active citizenship in today’s knowledge society. Media and information literate people can access, analyse, reflect upon, use, create and share media content responsibly.
MIL is related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly Goal 4 — quality education and 5 — gender equality as it equips citizens with critical information, media and digital competencies for quality education, active citizenship, and peace-building.
It also helps citizens detect and combat stereotypes, hate and racial discrimination in the media (online and offline). MIL is, therefore, a public good that must be supported and promoted for the benefit of society.
Countries such as the United States of America (USA), the United Kingdom (UK), and Germany are increasingly integrating MIL into their educational curricular to ensure that children develop the competencies to decode media messages and use digital media early and effectively. The situation is different in Ghana.
Universities such as the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ) and the University of Ghana and civil society organisations such as Penplusbytes, DW-Akademie and the Africa Centre for Media and Financial Literacy (ACMFL) have been actively promoting MIL.
However, there is still much more to be done to achieve MIL for all in Ghana.
Support for MIL in Ghana can take many forms. To begin with, both formal and non-formal educational institutions in Ghana must be encouraged to introduce aspects of MIL in their curriculum immediately and gradually integrate MIL wholly into their curricula.
Parents and guardians must also take a keen interest in their children and wards' media habits; they must also support young people to use traditional and digital media wisely.
Further, media literacy scholars, experts and other people knowledgeable about media technologies must continue to educate the public to increase the media consciousness of the citizenry.
In addition, it is necessary to identify and support categories of people more susceptible to media influence, such as children, adolescents and illiterate citizens to develop their MIL competencies. Finally, the government can support MIL by improving access to information and media, including digital media.
The government can also build on the momentum of the Global Media and Information Literacy Week celebrated each year to mobilise stakeholders further to advance MIL as a public good in Ghana.
The writer is a lecturer of the Department of Communication Sciences, GIJ, /advocate for Mill .