The Effects of Ownership on Nigerian Mass Media Contents. (Part 1)
By Imhoagene Richard. January 12, 2013.
The undeniable relationship between the Media and the society is one that continues to attract attention from a number of Media authorities, practitioners, and critics alike. The issue under contention is not whether a relationship does exist, but to examine the nature, extent, and intricacy of such a relationship. Let us briefly define what the mass media are;
Mass media are tools for the transfer of information, concepts, and ideas to both general and specific audiences.(www.enotes.com)
The Mass media are not just tools for the trade, they also include the organisations made up of people who manage and manipulate these tools for the transmission of public messages to a vast, scattered, and heterogeneous audience. The Mass media include television, radio, newspaper, magazine, and the internet. They may be others, but the five (5) listed above are the most widely accepted.
The functions of the media as highlighted by Daramola (2003) are basically to inform, educate, entertain, transmit cultural heritage, correlate parts of the environment, and surveillance of the society. By sourcing for news items daily, the media personnels put these functions at the back of their minds, as they owe it as a responsibility to the public to perform these functions. But the question is; "How does media ownership affect the performance of these functions vis a vis their contents?"
Mass Media Ownership In Nigeria; A Historical Review.
In this part of the world, media ownership first began with the activities of colonial missionaries. With the establishment of "Iwe Iroyin," Henry Townsend had a platform with which he could communicate with the community. Thus began the advent of newspaper in Nigeria.
The other set of people to have engaged in mass media were the Nationalists namely Herbert Macauley, Nnamdi Azikiwe, and Obafemi Awolowo, to mention but a few. In this colonial era, newspapers like the African Pilot were established to advocate for self-rule in Nigeria and Africa as a whole. While the Nationalists engaged in massive mobilisation and orientation through these early media, the colonialists made use of the media to propagate their policies, to galvanise support for the second world war, and to engage in massive propaganda, depicting their race as superior to the black race.
Then in 1959, the then Premier of western Nigeria, Obafemi Awolowo established the Western Nigeria Television (WNTV). Thus began the interest of the Nigerian Government in the Mass media. Soon enough, immediately after independence, state-owned television and radio stations began to spring up in every part of the country.
Consequently, in 1992, the Babangida regime effected the deregulation and democratisation of the Broadcasting sector in Nigeria. Before long, Private-owned television and radio stations began to spring up. Ray Power fm, Galaxy Television, Africa Independent Television (AIT), and Channels Television were among the earliest private broadcast stations to have been established. Today, even Tertiary Institutions parade radio stations on our airwaves.
The thrust of this topic is aimed at ascertaining the place of such ownership in determining the contents of these stations.
Undoubtedly, and as it has been frequently suggested, stations owned by the Government are bound to be Pro-Government. The saying; "He who Pays the Piper, Dictates the Tune" greatly applies here. You cannot possibly bite the hand that feeds you. Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), Voice Of Nigeria (VON), and other Government owned stations cannot air anything that antagonises or not in support of Government policies and actions. In fact, such stations are frequently used as tools for propaganda. They never see anything bad in the Government. Most often, they become the mouthpiece of the State- instruments of publicity. A lot of people now prefer to watch News from AIT and Channels than from NTA, because they believe that NTA does not portray truth in their news item, especially when such news items concern the Government. How then can these state-owned stations represent the interest of the people?
Private-owned Stations and Commercialisation:
Private-owned stations came about in order to break the monopoly of the state media. People found a new hope and a new source of media gratification. These private stations were geared towards meeting the media needs of the public during its inception, but a lot has changed since then. Private media have become largely commercialised. It is now all for the highest bidder. Media houses now dedicate their airtime and space (in the case of the print media) to anyone or any organisation who pays more. What this entails is that rather than give you what you want, they'll give you what fetches more income for their organisations. Such practices tend to affect the judgement of editors, producers, and even reporters as they go about their business of news gathering and reporting. Audiences are prevented from raw facts and presented with twisted stories to suit the caprices of advertisers and sponsors, as well as the bidding of the owners and their close friends and relatives. All these tend to distort the true content of the broadcast media, as stations may not tell the truth as it is, or decide to kill a story.
Sensationalism in the Media:
Apart from the effects given above, there is one that is very common today. Although, state-owned (public) media organisations have their flaws, they have have their good sides. Government-owned media houses are not profit-oriented, and, therefore, do not pay overt attention to such programmes that will generate income. Private media organisations, on the other hand, are established for profit-making. As is evident today, most private stations give more time to programmes that are seen as gold mines. Reality TV shows, musicals, and paid programmes carry the day. Gone are the days when we used to have educational programmes on television; debates, quizzes, and other family-loving programmes meant for the unification of the family. Because these individuals only care about making money, quality contents and programmes are put aside.
There are many other effects of the media as we will come to find out in subsequent articles, as this is merely the first phase of a series of write-ups as they concern this topic and related subject matters.
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