It’s a warm Wednesday and an unusually busy afternoon at Radio Univers 105.7fm. Seated in the newsroom, is a well-attested panel of six. The panel is led by Dr. Saddick Ahmed, a man of great clout and reputation, and is tasked to elect the finest twenty, amongst a pool of over 100 applicants. Outside the newsroom, a long queue of anxious, nervous, and enthusiastic individuals emerged, with the hope of taking turns to satisfy the most overarching requirement in order to make the cut – passing the interview. The panel is scheduled for a recess in the next 15mins, and can only make time for one more interview. But the panel is divided as to whether to allow a final interview before recess. Just when they plunge into a little debate, there is a gentle knock on the door to the interview room before it suddenly flangs open. A tall lanky baby-faced young man who should be in his early twenties walks in. ‘Good day,’ he submits. The panel is amazed at his appeal. A question is thrown at him and his initial remarks would draw a lively response from the panel who are already intrigued by the confidence he exudes. That was how the journey of broadcast and sports journalism began for George Addo Jnr. In this piece, I regale the story of a young man who has shot into prominence and gone on to over achieve at Ghana’s biggest media conglomerate, The Multimedia Group Ltd.
Early days at Radio Univers
George had a colorful stint with Radio Univers, walking in the shadows of the incredible line of talents who emerged from the nation’s most prestigious campus radio station. The station which was a wing of the Public Affairs Directorate of the University of Ghana was set up to harness student talents in radio and journalism while promoting the university’s business. Radio Univers has a reputation for raising, training and developing young talents into media icons, with all the top industry gurus beginning their career and media training at 105.7fm. There were a lot of positive narratives about radio Univers flying around campus and students who often were privileged to make the cut and join Radio Univers volunteering program were accorded a great deal of respect; they were seen as level-headed, smart and intelligent young people who will eventually join the chain of decent journalists in Ghana and become a huge sensation sometime to come.
Talk of Bola-Ray, Benard Avle, Saanie Daarra, but to mention a few. Addo Jnr joined the rank and file of radio univers in 2010. Much of the work was done in the newsroom located at the Jones Quartey Block, famously known as ‘JQB’. It was a small office made up of desks with glass panels, and served as work space for approximately about 40 student volunteers of the station. Yes! 40 student volunteers. These volunteers were not on payroll or being paid by the school in any way. These volunteers who were mostly students, had to juggle both academic work and newsroom business amidst a tight academic schedule. For the young Addo Jnr, the task was more daunting. After being assigned to the sports team, George will discover the desk had its own issues. Mild internal political wrangling’s and a clash of egos were some of the pending challenges. The addition of the new boy did little to fortify solidarity on the desk and after 6 months the management of radio univers had to intervene. The then head of the desk had to be sacrificed under a minor restructuring exercise, and the young George Addo Jnr. was elevated to lead the team.
The Public Affairs department had been monitoring his work on and off air and recommended him for the leadership slot even before management of the station endorsed it. The young “Odade3’ boy grew better and better, and gradually built a huge following. George was such a unifier and had a way of getting everyone to his side. He was not just the people’s person but also had a humorous, clever way of accommodating everyone’s idea.
He also knew how to stake a claim for himself and constantly conjured quality performances in his great oratory skills and his almost perfect anchoring style. But the biggest of it all was his innate courage and desire to succeed. “He was always actively involved to avoid any mediocrity. He never wanted to go on air and leave the microphone feeling disappointed after presentation. There was the urge of going on air to leave a mark, and it was no surprise Joy Fm discovered and poached him even before the mandatory national service program.” Eli Kondo, a colleague who succeeded Addo jnr as head of sports at Radio univers 105.7fm and worked with him on the univers sports desk, recounted.
Shows and Programs
Sports Express’ was the flagship sports show for Radio Univers 105.7fm. The show had carved the niche of serving listeners with regular sports updates and global sports content which was becoming the new luxury of sports radio broadcasting, airing on Wednesdays 16:00-17:00GMT and Saturdays 10:30-12:00GMT. A few months after George’s addition to the sports desk, Sports Express took a new shape. Peter, the then technician on duty in 2010, tells me the audience and listenership had soared enormously. “I don’t remember much, but one thing I do recall was how we had a lot of people calling in on the show which was just so unusual and the phone lines were almost always jammed up. Maybe people liked his voice and his way of presenting information.” 2009/2010 was a very exciting period in the history of sports in Ghana.
There was such a remarkable change in the narrative of media reporting in the sports space. The success of Ghana’s national football teams particularly the national U-20 men’s team that won the world cup in 2009, and the Black stars qualification for the African Cup of Nations and 2010 FIFA World Cup were major highlights. There was a lot of football commentary to do, huge trending topics to discuss and a lot of events and programs to cover. The airwaves were buzzing with positive football news and content from the Nlack Stars and other national teams. I was a high school student then, and occasionally did fantasize about those glorious moments. I attended the famous Presbyterian Boys’ High school (PRESEC), legon. The school is located 400m away from the university and during match days when we were restricted or could not project the matches on the bigger screens, we would often skid the school walls and ran to the university campus or radio univers to catch the games. I recount events during the 2010 World Cup, the school population was over 2,800, and everyone was in a mad rush to sit close to the screen and be first to tell who scored for Ghana, which team had progressed and who was the big talk of the world cup. All you could see on campus were students with smaller radio sets stuck to their ears whiles others grouped in fours and fives around the classroom. That’s where we discovered George Addo Jnr. In the absence of the TV a lot of us were looking out for good commentary on radio and had the habit of scanning our sets till we found settled on 105.7fm.
In no time a lot of young people had become fond of him. We knew all the household names in English commentary and could imitate them; the likes of Peter Dury, Jim Beglin, Derek Rae and all the other commentators in the English premier league. But we would often would mock Ghanaian English commentators for how they poorly articulated the language and gave a poor description of events happening in a football game. It was in one of our regular debates and comparisons we tuned in to Radio Univers 105.7fm to confirm our theory, but what we heard stunned us. The pace of the commentary, the description of events unfolding within the game, the choice of words and the way in which Addo jnr articulated it was just so impressive given the reputation of Ghanaian commentators. It was not just my high school that was making a fuss about Addo Jnr’s football commentary and masterful presentation prowess on radio.
He had stirred up a vitality chain on the campus of University of Ghana and I recount how on one of our usual wall skidding adventures to catch a Champions League game, we were forced to use the main gates of the University of Ghana, and we observed something unusual at the time of the evening. At 7pm when we walked through the gates, there speakers mounted at the gates and we could hear loud echoes from the radio univers studios with the dulcet voice of George Addo Jnr permeatimg the airwaves. It was so soothing, the British-like commentary pace and thin voice got us standing and enjoying it for 10minutes. And once again my friends would start a debate of whether that was a Ghanaian commentator or not. Within intervals the momentum of the debate will drop only to be resuscitated anytime we got to a hall or institution or a small mall/stall. Virtually the whole of the University of Ghana was vibrating with the voice of George Addo Jnr and the euphony was just so admirable. George continued to earn great plaudits even as a student journalist and during one of the high profile matches in the University of Ghana Football league (UGFL), lured the attention of Yaw Ampofo Ankrah – one of Ghana’s leading sports journalists (Formerly of Metro TV and then host of MTN Sports Academy). Yaw drove to the match venue to catch a glance of the young gentleman he later came to admire for his talent and how he upheld the art of sports broadcasting. The meeting ensured a lot of good tidings between the two, as George was drafted in as one of the correspondents for the MTN sports academy show – arguably the biggest football reality show on TV which sought to unearth extra ordinary sports talents. George’s first shot at TV presenting opened the flood gates for more. Before the World Cup, George inspired warm compliments for the radio univers sports desk and the station, following the production and airing of a particularly intriguing conversation on the Sport Express show themed; “A chat on Ghana’s Sports Literature”.
The conversation earned huge accolades for the unrivalled lined of questioning explored by Addo Jnr, the deep-seated research done by the production team and encyclopedic insight on topics. George and his production team managed to draw three of Ghana’s best; Kwabena Yeboah – veteran Sports Journalist and football commentator (Currently president of Sports Writers Association Ghana, SWAG) , Michael Oti Adjei – former head of sports TV3, and Yaw Ampofo Ankrah (renowned sports journalist and vice chairman, Ghana Beach Soccer Team). After the show, George was eulogized by the station manager of Radio Univers 105.7fm, Dr. Saddick Ahmed. “He’s always had this daring approach and deep and extraordinary research instinct. His strength is in his style of presenting and it is always admirable how he manages to punch all these elements into the production of his show. George will always goes beyond what is required of him. ” After a wonderful show, Joy FM began to reach out to the Radio Univers head of sports. Nathaniel Attoh, ace broadcaster, boxing journalist and announcer with the Multimedia Group gave George addo Jnr. another shot at TV, where he served as a stinger for Joy TV in Ghana’s final 2010 World Cup qualifying game against Sudan. Ghana went on to qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup staged in South Africa and George Addo Jnr. Interviewed the then head coach of Black Stars, Milovan Rajevac. In 2012, he was back on the TV screens as an anchor for then-new Guinness Football Challenge – a project aimed at unveiling talents in the country. After his anchorship role, George will go on to join the Multimedia group after completion of his degree program at the University of Ghana.
George was actively involved in key sports events across the entirety of the sports circles; Football, Tennis, Athletics, Boxing, Hockey and college sports.
He was often described as a good friend of the UG Sports Directorate, always projecting the school’s activities and putting student athletes in the limelight with his articles and videos. He has a rich resume which captures the extensive work covering student events both locally and internationally, and was very much involved in the 2009 and 2011 GUSA games. He led the sports desk of Radio Univers to capture all the big moments in track and field events as well as every other discipline. Following some good work in the GUSA games, Addo travelled with the UG sports team to Illorin, Nigeria for the West African University Games (WAUG) which featured 56 universities across the continent.
He was also pivotal in the coverage of the 2011 and 2012 unilateral games which is a joint initiative of the University of Ghana and University of Ibadan, Nigeria. George was a volunteer journalist at the FASU games in Windhoek, Namibia and the FISU games (also the World Universities Association Games). After a fruitful stint at radio Univers spanning 2010 through to 2013 George addo jnr moved on to join the multimedia group. He worked with JoySports, JoyFM and Joy News – all subsidiaries of the multimedia group in Ghana.
Article by ; Godfred Kweku Dampte-Larbi | univers.ug.edu.gh