Ghanaian 'Anchor Buddy' on Broadcasting and Politics The Anchor Buddy segment Kwaku Sintim-Misa, host of the Ghana television program Thank God It's Friday talks about the program's role in his country's politics.

Ghanaian 'Anchor Buddy' on Broadcasting and Politics

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

I'm Michel Martin. This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.

It's time for a visit with one of our anchor buddies. That's a reporter or host who helps us uncover the latest news and happenings from around the world. Today, we go to the West African nation of Ghana. In a few minutes, we'll hear from Ghana's minister of Tourism and Diasporan Relations on the country's efforts to persuade more African-Americans to visit that nation.

But first, we're joining to visit with Kwaku Sintim-Misa, the host of "Thank God It's Friday." It's one of the countries most popular television shows. Thanks for joining us.

Mr. KWAKU SINTIM-MISA (Host, "Thank God It's Friday"): Thank you very much. Good to join you.

MARTIN: Your show is the first of its kind in Ghana. Tell us about it.

Mr. SINTIM-MISA: Well, it's an excellent program. It's more on the lines of the Jay Leno and the David Letterman style. And I actually picked that when I was in the U.S. What I've done really is just to modify it so that it fits in the African context.

MARTIN: What does that mean? You pick on people but not too mean?

Mr. SINTIM-MISA: Well, I do. I do. I try to push the limits, and which quite new in Ghana, you know, picking on politicians, picking on the president, picking on minister of states, and making fun of them, you know, either by lampooning them, spoofing them. And it's become a very popular show because it's very refreshing to know that it - it sort of demystified authority in Ghana, which hitherto was more like a sacred institution you couldn't touch.

MARTIN: But you do real issues too, right? You do real issues in the news, and…

Mr. SINTIM-MISA: Oh definitely. Definitely. Definitely. It covers everything.

MARTIN: I hear that the former President Jerry Rawlings was a big fan, even though he was not generally used to being made fun of in the media. Is that true?

Mr. SINTIM-MISA: No, no, no, no. And I think that was what broke the ice. You know, this was a stage performance that I did and it was actually called "Politically Incorrect," and he showed up. And so I just took the liberty to push the limits and made fun of him. And to my surprise, pleasantly, he was laughing so hard and actually took part in the jokes. So he sort of like set a standard, you know, that even if the strong Jerry Rawlings comes in and takes jokes about himself then, you know, everybody should be able to do it. So that's what really started it.

MARTIN: Well, how does the current president feel about the show? Has he been on?

Mr. SINTIM-MISA: He hasn't been on. I think he's really worked very, very had to duck me every time I start to get him.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SINTIM-MISA: But I know sooner than later, he will come on.

MARTIN: You're a politician, not wanting to come on your program. Hmm. Where have I heard that before? Well, who do you have on tomorrow?

Mr. SINTIM-MISA: Well, tomorrow, I have this guy - actually this is an Irish guy who was - he rode a bike all the way from the U.K. to Ghana. More like he's touring Africa on a bike.

MARTIN: Okay. Sounds interesting. But, you know, talk to me about the media situation there. I understand that your program isn't the only, kind of, sign of a new openness, a new media awakening in Ghana, if we could call it that. Tell me about that.

Mr. SINTIM-MISA: Well, it's quite interesting, because 10 years ago when I first arrived in Ghana, private radio has just began, and there was just like two main private radio stations. Ten years later, I think in (unintelligible), we have about 22 of them, literally back to back to back on the FM dial. And people are pretty vocal. I remember 10 years ago when I came with my style of talk program, which was abrasive, and I could even tell that when people would call in that they would use wrong names, because somewhere during the show when you ask them their name again, they give you a different name, and the noise was sort of muffled, so you can tell that they were very afraid to speak out.

But now, it's amazing. I mean, you go down the aisle on all 22 stations in the morning and people say like it is whether it's for or against government, they speak boldly, which is a remarkable development in terms of people's ability to express themselves freely. And I really don't know of any African country that has that kind of liberal airwaves as we do have in Ghana.

MARTIN: And it's probably a good thing, because you've got presidential elections coming up in 2008, right?

Mr. SINTIM-MISA: Definitely. Definitely.

MARTIN: As we do here in the U.S. And you know, here we have something like 18 candidates running. And I think you have the same, right?

Mr. SINTIM-MISA: Well, right now, for the ruling party, I think they have - the last time I checked there was about 20 candidates who are vying for the party ticket, but are they going to go to congress in December and they're going to pick one. But right now, about 20 candidates have expressed an interest in becoming the candidate for the party. For the opposition, NDC, there's only one so far, and the other opposition parties that have not come up with their candidate.

MARTIN: How are people feeling about elections? Are they excited about it?

Mr. SINTIM-MISA: No, people aren't excited about it. Actually, the last two elections that ushered in the current government was met with a lot of enthusiasm for change. And I don't think people feel that they got the change that they really went out to vote for. So there's a lot of disillusion, you know. And I - from the way I see things, unless something really radical happens, we'll probably have a very low voter turnout because they are many people that are so disillusioned with the whole process.

MARTIN: Are you covering the elections closely?

Mr. SINTIM-MISA: I'm monitoring it very, very closely, because next year I'm going to do a whole series on the candidates. I'm going to profile them on my program. I'm going to ask them to come for an interview. If they don't show up, I just put some dummy in there and…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SINTIM-MISA: And do something that will get them to come, because they'd rather be there than what I put there on their behalf. So I'm looking forward to it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: I'll see how it goes for you, and then maybe I'll try it. If that works for you, all right?

Mr. SINTIM-MISA: Yes. I'll give you the formula.

MARTIN: That's right.

Mr. SINTIM-MISA: I'm sure it'll work. Yeah.

MARTIN: And speaking about elections, the incumbent president has put a strong emphasis on tourism. As I mentioned, later in the program, we're going to speak with your minister of tourism, Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey.

And earlier this year, in part, commemorating the 50th anniversary of Ghanaian independence, there was this emphasis on drawing tourists of African descent to Ghana called The Joseph Project. You should just tell us a little more about that, but what's your take on how well that worked? Were people excited about it?

Mr. SINTIM-MISA: Yes. There's a lot of excitement. It's - but unfortunately, it's one way - you know, we have African-Americans coming in with a lot of enthusiasm. It's about coming to the motherland. It's coming back to their roots. Unfortunately, the Africans on this side of town who are the motherland, who are the roots, do not have the same, if you will, enthusiasm. Most of them are looking for a visa to go to America, you know, which is what prime focus of many of the youth here.

What is missing is that we here don't have the kind of appreciation that we need to have about what the brothers and sisters have gone through. We need to have a better understanding of the effects of the slave trade and why coming back to Africa means so much to African-Americans? And that's - I blame that on the educational system. You know, we have not really been taught to understand what they represent, and the kind of significance it has in our history and that's very much lacking.

MARTIN: Mm-hmm. That's interesting. And finally, and I hate to end on a sort of a down note, but I wanted to talk to you about a story that's gotten some attention in the U.S. It's about Felicia Moore, an 18-year-old high school student from New Jersey. She went on a school trip to Ghana in April and was found dead in the hotel swimming pool. And there's been some discussion here in the U.S. about whether Ghanaian officials are pursuing this matter as attentively as their parents and others believe that they perhaps should be. Has this been a big story in Ghana?

Mr. SINTIM-MISA: It's been a story in Ghana, but it has not been a major headline story. You know, it's been touched upon to the (unintelligible) reporter that the FBI was sending in a team to Ghana, because they were not satisfied with the lack of enthusiasm, I guess, or something to that effect. So the FBI was sending a team to Ghana. Unfortunately, whenever cases like this have happened, the kinds of thorough investigation that you would expect would come from the police does not happen. You know, they - it's more like a catch-and-go thing. It's not thorough enough for people to be satisfied that, well, all has been done.

MARTIN: Mm-hmm. Okay. Well, what's - looking ahead to next week - what's big on your agenda for next week?

Mr. SINTIM-MISA: Well, next week, the president is attending the G-8 meeting, and when he comes back we are expecting to hear something interesting.

MARTIN: Great. Maybe you'll keep us posted.

Mr. SINTIM-MISA: I will.

MARTIN: Okay. Kwaku Sintim-Misa is the host of "Thank God It's Friday," a weekly television program. He joined us on the phone from Accra. Kwaku, thank you so much for joining us.

Mr. SINTIM-MISA: Thank you very, very much.

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