The Need for High Standards in Award Shows

I am not one to bootlick or for the fact that ‘somebody has suffered to do something’ so I shut my eyes to the grandiose display of mediocrity and worse, heap praise. It’s important to state this before I delve into this piece. I have in the past seen a series of news reports by some entertainment journalists and I am left to believe that they reported events to make some organisers happy.

We in Ghana seem to have suddenly discovered the side of us which says we should honour people for doing what they are known to do well. This can be seen in the plethora of awards we have seen in the last few years. Indeed some have been with us for ages but we cannot overlook the new ones.

DJ awards, radio and television personality awards, footballers awards, tourism awards, made in Ghana product awards, fashion awards, dancehall music or BASS awards, music video awards, Ghana’s 100 most influential people, movie awards, and the list is endless, really.

With the advent of social media, some people have also established Facebook/Social Media Awards amongst their virtual friends. These are often fun awards and are increasingly getting popular too.

All these have joined more established ones like the Ghana Music Awards, Journalists of the Year awards, CIMG awards, Banking awards, telco awards and all in all it is a good thing because it tells various professionals that they are noticed for what they do.

Credibility of Awards

Now this is one important matter. Most people will regard the Oscars and Grammy very highly. Not merely because they are very old, but because there is a general trust in the scheme used to arrive at winners. Yes I know about the rants of folks like Kanye West and some other artists in the past. It tells us that even world acclaimed awards like these and the BETs have some doubters. So if they do, what about the many awards that have sprung up like mushrooms after rainfall in Ghana?

We are rarely told in proper detail about the criteria for selecting award winners. When we are told, the schemes open themselves up for more questions than there are answers for.

One of the most reputable award schemes we have in Ghana is the Ghana Music Awards. Over the past 15 years, the event organisers have tried to run it as professional as possible but there are still a lot issues surrounding the credibility of some categories. It does make a lot of sense that organisers will seek to make some extra bucks from  SMS votes. However we saw one of the flaws of that system when Asem and Kwabena Kwabena failed to notch the collaboration of the year for that fantastic track, Bye Bye, because Herty Borngreat and Trigmatic, who had a less popular and less technically tight song, campaigned more to rake in the votes.

That is even a small matter.

The credibility and reputation of the concept owner especially and the event organisers goes a long way to tell how serious we should take awards. If the impression is created that an event organiser or concept owner is creating an awards scheme with the hope of making money from sponsers then I have every reason to treat that award as bogus.

What Makes the Awards Credible?

Without pretending to be an expert I can say an awards scheme is credible if;

1. We are all told of the criteria for selecting nominees

– Northern Affair, my friend Leila Djansi’s movie won a number of awards at the last Movie Awards. However considering the movie had not been premiered and you and I hadn’t seen it, our rants were understandable. It took Leila and others not connected to the awards to explain that once the panel had watched it, it was ok since the categories it featured were not opened to the public anyways. ETV has a reward scheme dubbed 100 most influential Ghanaians. I don’t know about you but I know I don’t know what informed that list.

2. Who does the nominations?

– If we are not told the background of who nominates winners then in the mind of the public there is reason to doubt its genuineness. I mean wouldn’t you be comfortable to read that a team comprising experienced industry players and academics in a required field were involved in a process?

3. How are winners determined?

– At the last Music Awards, it was very obvious that the winners of the award for the collaboration of the year did not deserve it. Organisers had used the tag line “did you vote” in a bid to get the public involved in the process and to raise revenue. However after the outcry over last year one lesson should have be that perhaps a second look should be taken at making some categories panel selection.

4. Transparency in declaring winners

– Some coaches have complained after the FIFA Player of the Year awards that their true votes were not captured. FIFA doesn’t just publish the percentage of votes cast, they go on to tell us who voted for who. Auditors are involved in this process normally but coming from a background where my company runs promotions like that, I know for a fact that until the Ghanaian wins a promo, he believes it is fixed and winners are as fake as a Chinese made SAMSAMG mobile device.

5. Media hype doesn’t necessarily make an award credible

Perhaps one if the most hyped awards in recent past was the Radio and Television Personality awards. Because of the design of the awards, it meant that every radio station with nominees were advertising the awards. However aside the humiliation that ensued during the awards night, not knowing how the short list was reached and all of that has meant that people like me do not attach any serious importance to the awards.

The use of Ghana’s name to organise awards?

I get uncomfortable when I watch or read about the tumultuous failure of an award with “Ghana” attached to it. My thinking is that once you have the heavy name of Ghana attached to any awards it gives it a completely new level of legitimacy whiles suggesting also that it has a nationwide angle. However I am told that anyone can use it. Nobody can stop anyone.

I put forward the following concerns to two mentors of mine in separate emails. Both lawyers. Egbert Faibille and Ace Kojo Anan Ankomah;

“1. Does one not require some permission before using The Ghana name to describe awards, associations, etc?

2. Who ‘owns’ the Ghana brand or name perhaps?

3. Should organisers not be permitted before they are able to name awards, associations etc with the Ghana name?

My issue is that when I hear any group or awards with Ghana my thinking is that it has been officially sanctioned. But we have all manner of crappy and embarrassing scenarios where Ghana is used and I wonder who can and should stop them”.

Both men got back to me with virtually the same answer.  Egbert said that “the name Ghana has no legal limitations on it as to usage so far as the use is not fraudulent. However, there are limitations on the use of the national flag, coat of arms and the national anthem. Thus, I can found a school and call it the Ghana School of ICT for example and I will not be in breach of any law”

May I add that Egbert began his answer with a “hmmmm”.

He also agrees that “You have raised a very important issue and will love to see how the powers that be react to it in your write up. There’s the immediate need for specific legislation to stop the rot”.

So you see, event  and award organisers know this and so they abuse it within the remits of the law. Has it occurred to you why we have so many award schemes these days? You think it is because those involved see the need to reward people or there is more to it?

Crappy Awards

In addition to all the wahala regarding credibility and all, we have to contend with mediocrity sprewn all over these awards. Perhaps the worse awards for the year just gone by were the RTP awards, 4syte Music Video awards and the Ghana Movie Awards.

I think when we have award schemes of national feel, organisers owe it to us as a people and consumers of their product to serve as right and with respect and decorum. Laxity in our laws have meant organisers are able to draw on the importance of brand Ghana to do their own things.

Individual Profit vs Reward for Industry Players

Before and indeed shortly after the DJ awards, wild allegations were made by different people that the organisers had boasted about raking in profits as been their cardinal mission in organising the awards. Great idea, but for the second consecutive year the DJ awards was crap. What do industry players do when organisers clearly put their individual profits ahead of the industry they claim to want to support?

Wrapping Up

The concept of awarding and recognising hardworking players in industries is an awesome idea. However it seems it is taking us too long to perfect the act. Yes we should encourage those who have started but it doesn’t mean we should tolerate all the mediocrity, terrible planning and execution and the mockery that some of these events throw on practitioners.

How long are we going to keep trying till we get it right? To quote Manifest, ‘Debi Debi ebeye yield nanso debi debi beba daben? ‘.

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