The Mirror Lifestyle Content

Will Graphic's anchor hold (2)

Will Graphic's anchor hold (2)

On April 4, 2024, news portals reported that Graphic Communication Group Ltd (GCGL) had decided to list the company on the stock exchange.


This announcement followed an earlier one amid speculation that GCGL was to be sold to private investors. The announcement appeared to confirm whisperings in the undergrowth that all was not well with the septuagenarian establishment. Rumours that things were not going well at GCGL, especially since the end of 2023, had been making the rounds.

However, Graphic, as everyone calls the company, was not considered a distressed entity. As the biggest newspaper organisation in the country, Graphic has been of intense interest to all governments, and the assumption was that no government could afford to let the advantage of controlling Graphic's assets out of its grip.

The announcement, which amounted to the state divesting Graphic of its interest in some form, could not have been taken without the knowledge or even the encouragement of the government.  

For many years, state ownership of Graphic was a problem because of governments' heavy-handed editorial interference in Graphic newspapers. In the Fourth Republic, the state-owned media have been "insulated from governmental control" by the 1992 Constitution. This constitutional freedom, although breached occasionally, has profoundly affected Ghana's media landscape.

Today, compared to the private media, those in the state's stable enjoy better editorial freedom. This is why placing GCGL in private hands is causing consternation in political and media circles.

Ideally, the government, which owns the state's assets, would refloat Graphic in some form, but we know that under current economic conditions, this would be a tough ask. Indeed, it would be unwise for Graphic to return to state subvention, as this could undermine the editorial independence of its newspapers.

In last week's article, we discussed the challenges the newspaper industry faces worldwide. It is evident that Graphic is not the only newspaper company facing severe problems, but that is no consolation when the future of this venerable institution is unclear, to put it mildly.

The newspaper industry is taking several steps worldwide to ensure its survival, and one has to assume that GCGL is pursuing these options to varying degrees. Of course, the most obvious option is to add broadcasting to its stable.

 I heard from the grapevine that the government (not this particular government) did not favour that proposition because it would make Graphic "too big." Furthermore, it would put Graphic in direct competition with another state-owned giant, the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, GBC.

Today, that argument sounds dated. The old pigeonholes have disappeared in the multimedia environment in which the media operate. In Ghana, all the leading media houses have taken advantage of digital resources to expand their remit. The Graphic has an online and social media presence but needs to have the kind of commanding hold exercised by its newspapers.

One area that needs particular attention is distribution. In its early decades, Graphic defined the distribution strategy for all other companies. At one point, a prominent international magazine poached a Graphic executive to lead its entry into the African market.

When Graphic needed to make its newspapers more visible, it became a challenge to find those newspapers in many parts of the country, including the newer parts of the capital.

I have not set out to criticise Graphic, mainly because I am not aware of how the management is tackling the challenges. Still, the company may need more than a distribution strategy.

This could be why the management is considering floating on the stock exchange. However, there is a third way between state ownership and private ownership. This is the Guardian way.

The UK's Guardian is one of the most respected newspapers in the world. It represents a significantly progressive voice in domestic and international affairs. At many points, it has broken with most of the UK national press to support liberation and progressive forces.

It can do so because it is fiercely independent of big business, the government, political parties, and trade unions. Its independence is underpinned by its unique business model.
The Guardian is not owned by any person or group of people.

It is owned by the Scott Trust Limited, named after the Manchester Guardian's first editor, C.P. Scott. The Trust and its Trustees do not interfere in the editorial side of the business. In 1992, the Trust identified its central objective as being the following:

"To secure the financial and editorial independence of The Guardian in perpetuity: as a quality national newspaper without party affiliation; remaining faithful to its liberal tradition; as a profit-seeking enterprise managed efficiently and cost-effectively."

The Trust saw its main functions of the Trust are:


To secure the Trust's continuity by renewing its membership and by dealing with threats to its existence;

To monitor the organisation, financial management and overall strategy of the group, holding the Board accountable for its performance;

To appoint and 'in extreme circumstances' to dismiss the editors of The Guardian, the Manchester Evening News (and The Observer after its acquisition in 1993);

To act as a 'court of appeal' in the event of any dispute between the editorial and managerial sides of the operation.


Of course, the circumstances that gave birth to the Guardian model and its details are different from what could shape the future of the GCGL. Still, the Trust idea is one the government could consider, not only for GCGL but as the ultimate working modus for the state-owned media.

In this instance, the state could make a one-time payment as a long-term loan secured on the company's assets to set up the Trust. As the GCGL ponders its future, it might do well to remember that it owns a valuable asset in the shape of West Africa magazine.

In the mid-1990s, Graphic acquired the title from The Daily Times of Nigeria but did little with it. West Africa was, for many years, the most credible pan-African weekly journal. It has amassed a sizeable archive that could provide a regular income stream from the interests of researchers, academics and publishers. Reviving West Africa as an online news operation could attract advertising across the ECOWAS region and beyond.

Graphic's future could be brighter than the doom forecast by some people as a result of recent information. Furthermore, that future need not be tied to an either/or proposition involving only the government and the private sector. We need a flexible approach that can work for generations to come. 

[email protected]


Connect With Us : 0242202447 | 0551484843 | 0266361755 | 059 199 7513 |

Like what you see?

Hit the buttons below to follow us, you won't regret it...