Listening to Story Time & Taataa Tee

Sarah Akrofi-Quarcoo


Around mid-1937, barely two years after radio had been introduced to
colonial Ghana, eight-year-old Kate Bannerman and her two older siblings
started trekking every Friday afternoon from their home in Osu to
an uncle’s home a few kilometres away to listen to Story Time. It was a
fifteen-minute children’s literature programme on Station ZOY targeted
at preteen school-going children. Broadcast at 4:00 p.m. on Fridays
when children were expected to be home from school, Story Time was
meant to cultivate a radio-listening culture among children and encourage
reading. Bannerman recalled listening to famous fairy tales such
as Cinderella and Snow White on Story Time while sitting around the
radio receiving set—the wired rediffusion box—with her siblings and
cousins and occasionally her mother. Now eighty-seven, she reminisces
excitedly: “We did not miss Story Time because we learnt many things
from the stories.” Bannerman said her father was compelled to have a
receiving set installed in their household to enable them to engage more
with Story Time and other children’s programmes introduced on radio
in later years.

Story Time brought radio into the homes of many other Gold Coast
children and often was how they first encountered radio. Radio was
new and accessibility was limited to a few homes, predominantly those
of the educated. Therefore, at the time, listening outside one’s home
was not peculiar to the Bannerman siblings. School-going children who
were familiar with the programme but had no direct access to radio
sets found ways of listening to Story Time after hearing about it from

friends at school. Anecdotal evidence suggests that crowds, including
children and women, “invaded” homes of the few radio owners; some
to witness the novel technology and others to listen to programmes they
liked at scheduled broadcast times, as was the case with the Bannerman
siblings. By the 1960s, however, radio ownership had expanded with
greater access to diverse populations. Listening was more organised,
and more programmes were developed in local languages targeted at
both in- and out-of-school children. Bannerman also recalls the programme
Taataa Tee (titled after a traditional lullaby), which started
to air in the early 1960s. Unlike Story Time, it was broadcast in Ga, a
language spoken by the indigenes of Accra where broadcasting services
first began.

Bannerman’s testimony on these two children’s programmes draws
attention to how broadcast administrators and radio producers used
literary genres to court children to listen to radio. The testimony also
demonstrates, consistent with the literature, how children at early stag-
es of their lives sought ways to engage with the modern technology
to gratify diverse interests. As Livingstone argues, critical perspectives
on media audiences reject the school of thought that casts children as
victims of media manipulation rather than as active adventurers and
explorers of media content (2005). Such views fail in part to see the
media as a potential tool for enlightenment and pedagogy. This essay is
located within the framework of radio pedagogy and audience agency
and aims at informing understandings on how both broadcasters and
children fostered a relationship to achieve mutual objectives. It argues
that given radio’s egalitarian and democratic potential, children of all
ages found the medium accessible as a channel for receiving content
that would better their lives.


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