Francis Doku: 20 years of Kwasi Twum’s enigma and success
The Multimedia Broadcasting group celebrated 20 years with a thanksgiving service at the International Central Gospel Church last Sunday and I have been elected to do a two-part (let’s hope it doesn’t end up as three-part considering with twenty years can throw up) piece on the group and the stations over the years.
This week, I have chosen to write about the CEO of the companies in the group and next week I will talk about the 20 people who in my view have played great roles at the stations to grow to where they are now over the past 20 years.
So it will be in order to pay glowing tribute to the one person who can be credited for the very existence of that GIBA. If he had not set out to do what he did in the mid-1990s, there probably won’t be any other independent radio station and there probably won’t be GIBA. Probably!
Mr. Daniel Kwasi Koranteng Twum is the CEO of the company that birthed Joy FM in 1995. The Multimedia Broadcasting Limited brought to the people of Accra a new radio station with a new vibe and a whole new mentality from what they had been used to for many years on GBC.
Joy FM brought to us young people at the time the things we had yearned for to be done on radio. Thanks to Kwasi Kyei Darkwa(KKD), we had had a taste of what broadcasters of his make could bring to us Joy FM arrived on the scene with a huge impact that balled us over. The crisp clear sound, the somewhat different twang that some of these presenters had come on air with.
Even those who had been seconded from GBC that we thought we knew how they sound had changed completely and it was a refreshing experience, I kid you not. If you were into radio as I was, this was Eldorado!
Don’t also forget that barely a year before Kwasi Twum would launch Joy FM, there had been a sort of testing of the waters by Dr. Yves Charles Wereko-Brobbey when he established Radio Eye to operate as the first privately owned radio station.
The difference between Twum and Wereko-Brobbey, vis-à-vis their approach to establishing a radio station and the reason one succeeded and the other failed was that the former was a business man and latter was a protestor.
Wereko-Brobbey was convinced that the 1992 constitution granted every citizen the freedom to express themselves in any manner they so desired and so establishing a radio station was his way of doing so and he did not need anyone’s permission or authorisation to do so.
You see, Ghana had just come out of over a decade of military dictatorship where insistence on ones right was not the prevailing culture. Heck, even the nation’s Constitution was designed to satisfy one man and so anyone who thought they had the freedom ought to know it was subject to someone else’s whims.
The long and short is that Wereko-Brobbey aka Tarzan had his station shut down and his equipment confiscated. The case ended up in court, but of course Radio Eye would not return on air.
It could be that it was by his nature for Kwasi Twum to be cautious about the manner he approached his business or he must have learned a lesson or two from the approach and ultimate failure of Wereko-Brobbey to carry out to the end his vision of establishing the first interdependent broadcast station or both.
Some say his uncle and then doctor of the Rawlings’ Brigadier, Seth Twum, was the real influence and catalyst to ensuring that he got the authorisation to operate a radio station.
That may well be, and nothing wrong if it was, but influence can just carry you so much.
Beyond influence and recommendation, you have to have the vision, the zeal and hunger to make sure that after you have gained the favour, you go the extra mile to properly appropriate that dream to full reality.
All said and done, the ace that Kwasi Twum pulled and which would end up being one of the key success factors of establishing and keeping the station going at the initial stages was the alliance or partnership he went into with the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation.
Twum may have picked a lesson from the old maxim that says “the one who wants to go far goes alone, but the one who wants to succeed goes with someone,” hence his decision to tie up with GBC.
Another very important factor was the fact that he managed to include in the partnership the fact that some very experienced personnel, both on-air and technical talent would be seconded from GBC to Joy FM to help at the initial stages and then mixed these people up with some other young people who may not have the experience but had the talent and the fire in their belly to succeed at this venture.
So it was the experienced hands (or voices in this case) of Tommy Annan Forson, Dusty Wayne, Kofi Tsakpowornu, Wendy Mahamata, et al (who goes into the record as the first female presenter on a private radio station) combined with the youthful talent of the likes of Eddie Fabin, Doreen Andoh, Cox Tamakloe, Mark Okraku Mantey, Kofi Kum Bilson, Eric de Graft Aikins, Gabby Adjetey, Samuel Atta Mensah, et al to give us a five star delectable experience in the early days of Joy FM.
Over time, Kwesi Twum and his team found ways to bring in other talents from other stations and some just out or in school who would drive his vision to the expectant level he wanted it.
One such person is Komla Dumor who took the radio thing to levels yet to be compared and goes into the books as the best talent to emerge from the dream Kwesi Twum had.
When it comes to building a structure to run a media conglomerate, Twum built the most robust one this side of the Atlantic has or would ever know. The MBL structure was deliberately built to have levels of reporting, responsibilities and everything else in-between. You don’t look just to one man to make a decision.
Some have criticised the structure as the limiting factor to getting the best talent. They would cite the examples of other stations whose CEOs or their reps just make a call and things happen, while at MBL you have to cross layers of structures and dive through hoops to get a simple decision made. As for me, I will choose a model that outlasts the one who had the vision.
When he had set Joy FM on a solid grounds in Accra he moved to spread the love in Kumasi with the establishment of Luv FM. The likes of Dusty Wayne, Cox Tamakloe and Kofi Kum Bilson had to go to Kumasi to make that place also well established.
He then turned his attention to building local brands after Osei Kwame Despite and his team at Peace FM had shown that it could be done. That led to the acquisition of major shares of Aero Communications, the owners of Groove FM which was rebranded Adom FM and positioned to compete in the low end market.
With time, there came other acquisitions which resulted in Nhyira FM, Hitz FM and Asempa FM all targeting different segments. Right in the very early dot com days, Twum and his team found a way to establish a website that would ensure that their influence was extended online and www.myjoyonline.com became that vehicle.
In 20 years, Kwesi Twum has built a media empire that has in it six radio stations (Joy FM, Luv FM, Adom FM, Nhyira FM, Hitz FM and Asempa FM), a multi-channeled television station, an online business with multiple radio plug-ins and a whole lot more around it.
This man gave hope to young people that they could do it given the needed opportunity and most of them lived up to it.
This man created opportunities for several young people to find something to do with their lives to earn a living for themselves.
This man created platforms for businesses to advertise their brands, grow their businesses and create a lot more value for their business and the economy.
This is the man who never shows up in public but is behind everything that happens on his stations (including calling presidential elections) and is said to never own a mobile phone (though some say this is a myth).
This is the man whose vision and dream we celebrate today. The success of Kwesi Twum knows no bounds and so is his enigma.