It is an indisputable theory that after 17 years, the Vodafone Ghana Music Awards remain the ‘biggest’ and most-respected awards scheme in the Ghanaian entertainment industry – and without a mince of doubt, Charterhouse, organizers of the annual festival of awards show, have done an incredible job of giving the event so much prestige, class, clout and influence.
In all the classiness and interest the awards commandeers, there’s also the inevitable controversies attached to the awards, something synonymous with every recognized awards show across the world. Over the years, controversies on the VGMA has hinged predominantly on one thing; purported wrong choice of some winners.
The Awards, in the determination of its winners, is said to actually go through a thorough and genuine regimen – but the choices of some winners always make music fans and critics cringe with such cynicism.
Strong Cases of Perceived Lack of Transparency
In 2004, the five awards won by gospel greats, Daughters of Glorious Jesus for their album ‘Aseda’, generated ruckus and the organizers endured ruthless backlash, they almost gave up on the awards.
For the first time in the history of the awards, the audience openly booed Irene & Jane when they were announced winners of the ‘Best Female Vocalist’ category in 2008, beating the likes of Ohemaa Mercy, Becca, Diana Hamilton and Cee. The fact that Irene& Jane were under the management of Charterhouse made the win seem dubious.
Music adherents were in disbelief when Czar was adjudged to have won the 2009 ‘Hiplife Song of the Year’ with ‘Mercy Lokko’, soaring above the likes of Okyeame Kwame (Medo Mmaa), Klala (Am3 h3y3 f3o), Reggie Zippy (Adoma), Dunsin (Oyeadi3 y3) and Obour (President Obour).
In 2011, ardent GMA followers were left bemused to have had Zapp Mallet beat Nacy to pick the ‘Producer of the Year’ prize, in a year where Nacy did everything right and deserved to annex the honour. Even good old Zapp was less expectant of the award as he showed so much surprise during his acceptance speech.
Herty Borngreat produced arguably the biggest shock of the Awards thus far when she annexed the ‘Best Collaboration of the Year’ in 2013 for her collaborative effort with Trigmatic ahead of arguably the most popular collaboration of that year, Asem and Kwabena Kwabena’s ‘Bye Bye’.
In 2014, The Academy and Board’s decision to award Bisa Kdei the ‘Best Songwriter of the Year’ for the song, ‘Give it to Baba’ over Minister OJ’s ‘Maye se mo pen’ – did cast some grave skepticism on the intelligibility of the scheme.
These occurrences and more have created doubts over the Awards, where many have questioned the integrity and transparency of the scheme.
Are the Processes Really ‘Airtight’?
Over the period, the VGMA Organization has assured Ghanaians of a very credible and verifiable awards scheme by publishing the processes of the selection of winners.
According to such publication, there is a Collection of Entries stage where qualified songs are taken from submissions from record companies, search engines like Google, data from Mobile Content Companies, and from the Copyright Office.
There is the Categorization process, where the VGMA Board compiles the entries and the nomination process where songs, artists and albums are nominated in various categories. After all that, the organizers come out with the official nominations list.
Over the years, there have been blatant anomalies in the categorization and nomination of songs. Songs that do not qualify with regards to time of release are nominated. Artistes with several albums under their names are nominated as new artistes, songs are categorized wrongly and songs that qualify for nominations are ignored.
So, with all these mishaps, some of which have been acknowledged by the organizers (Cynthia Macauley as ‘New Artiste’, Nicholas Omane Acheampong as ‘Producer of the Year’ etc) – it goes to prove, that the Awards cannot be unadulterated as depicted.
A Very Critical Voting Process
Of all the documented processes of the VGMA, the most crucial is the voting process. It includes 40% public voting, 30% VGMA Academy voting, and 30% VGMA Board voting, all representing the Public Voting Awards.
The Industry Voting Awards include 50% VGMA Academy and 50% VGMA Board, which also has 100% voting rights in the Honorary, Sound Engineer and Producer of the Year Awards.
Voting is said to be done online, via mobile phone (short code) plus a voting session each for the VGMA Academy and Board.
It is also said that, all the votes are supervised and tabulated by world renowned business advisory firm, KPMG.
With all the above stipulated procedures, the VGMA is cast to be one of the most credible, transparent and error-free awards schemes in Ghana but wait a minute, is that the case? Not quite!
Voting System Flawed?
With the perceived wrong choice of winners for some categories, many have also raised issues about the transparency of the voting system and the collation technique of world-renowned business firm, KPMG.
Before 2016, there was some school of thought that – if Charterhouse and KPMG publish the collation of public votes, Academy and Board votes, maybe it may go a long way to change the mindset of Ghanaians on transparency.
Indeed, in 2016, after some pressure from followers of the scheme, Charterhouse released the voting results of the award, a month after the main awards – in a bid to exhibit some level of transparency. Did it help? Of course not!
As expected, questions were asked if the voting results were not manipulated to suit the winners of the various categories – considering the sort of bewilderment that greeted the announcement of some winners, especially E.L. as ‘Artiste of the Year’.
According to critics, the results could only be trusted if the results were displayed on large screens on the awards night but certainly not weeks after the event was held.
What Can Be Done To Improve Transparency?
Should the organizers allow some media presence in the deliberations of the Board? Should they let the media in on how voting is done and how compilation are handled by KPMG? Would that help with the integrity and transparency of the scheme?
Maybe, just like the critics demand, the organizers should present the results on the night of the awards, breaking the collation down to depict how the three voting departments (Public, Academy, Board) voted. Perhaps, that could improve on the perception of transparency of the Awards.
Wait a minute! Why should the organizers even bother with all these moves just to show Ghanaians the scheme is transparent? Has any music awards scheme in the world been bereft of controversies over transparency?
Just weeks ago, Adele’s ‘Album of the Year’ win over Beyonce’, once again, raised transparency issues at the Grammy, something the most-prestigious music awards scheme in the world gets to contend with every edition.
Maybe, there’s nothing Charterhouse can really do to disabuse the minds of people on lack of transparency with the awards.