The Dilemma of Nigeria’s News Media System
For National Integration or Commercial Purpose?
The media performs three basic functions — educate, inform, and entertain. Yet, it seems the media has almost perfected the entertainment mandate to a fault.
Also, have you ever tried to watch the news and all you see are sensational stories of failures, setbacks, imbroglio, from the beginning right up to the end? This makes me ask myself and anyone around- even though these stories are prevalent- are there no stories of value?
Some psychologists have even recommended that certain individuals stay away from the news, for the sake of their mental health.
The answer to my questions would most likely be that odd news sells! They attract people and companies that want to advertise their product.
Then again- Is it just bad news that sells, what about good or development related news? Will a company refuse to advertise on a television station because they report more positive stories? Or will constant reportage of community oriented news lure viewers away from a television program? I really doubt it.
The media owe the nation, or the milieu, where they operate a civic duty of balanced and fair reportage of events. To achieve this, media content must be heterogeneous, creative, and most importantly, promote development. As a matter of fact, Nigeria’s media system was decentralized for these reasons. The deregulation of the Nigerian media system by the passage of Decree 38 of 1992 (now an act of parliament), liberalized the electronic media system, empowered private owners to own, establish, and operate any medium for the dissemination of information, ideas and opinion”.
Before then, the public broadcast stations- Nigerian Television Authority (NTA, Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria FRCN)- were established to provide educational contents, entertainment, and most importantly, act as a developmental tool. The government directed that “Nigerian Television Authority should elaborate, analyse, and package the government’s development programme.”
It was therefore a valid expectation that the deregulation of the media will serve as a catalyst for creativity, plurality, and factually to a large extent, that has been achieved.
Consumers are bombarded with a delectable variety of programs, and the only worry is to make a choice. For instance, I love listening to current affairs programs, so, I am left to choose between Channel TV’s Sunrise Daily, AIT’s Kaakaki the African Voice, or TVC News’ Breakfast or Arise News’ The Morning Show. Cable TV also grants me the liberty to listen to the BBC or CNN. The list goes on
Judging by the analogy I gave earlier (second paragraph), is the media still meeting up to expectation in terms of social responsibility? You watch a 30 minutes news bulletin and a significant amount of the time is on really odd news and advertisements. Should news bulletins on television even have commercial adverts as short breaks? What about airing more public service announcements?
Apart from the 100% entertainment stations, the media is filled with sensational stories, celebrity gists, fashion, and unnecessary commentaries on the doings and undoings of the political elites whose fluid ideologies, opinions, demeanor are inconsequential to national development or an average citizen’s socio-economic development.
We see less stories about rural development, follow ups on citizens demonstrations to hold the government accountable, reports of non governmental organization’s efforts to fight health inequality, poverty, health, global campaign for girl-child education etc.
Now, I am not saying that the former type of stories should not be reported or the latter are not reported at all, after all these odd stories are not fiction, they are true and must be reported. The point is that news programs must be reported from the standpoint of national integration, socio-economic development and not for the sake of reporting or to woo viewers to a program.
The media should shed off the desire to always criticize or condemn the actions of government officials, but critically review, analyze their activities, program, and their implications on the society.
The broader narrative of each story must be considered to achieve balance, so people can understand their world accurately. The media should be a conduit to ignite hope in the citizens, not a channel to reinforce horror and pain.
Since the media tells us what to think about as in the development media theory, it is important that citizens ponder on the right thing. As a man thinketh in his heart so is he!
The media should prioritize reporting developmental programs and policy implementation. COVID19 is arguably the most popular word of the year according to Global Language Monitor, because the media shoved it in our face repeatedly and are still doing that. So imagine if healthcare equality was given equal prominence.
The media is also tasked with the duty of informing the people about developmental projects and the role they have to play. The news commentary and current affairs program must critically analyze the different roles of every citizen and the government to achieve the Sustainable development goals by the United Nations for instance or the implication of staying at home during a voting exercise or why citizens should take the COVID19 vaccine and not just the political jamboree around the issue. The persuasive role of the media can be leveraged to influence people’s action toward a particular trajectory.
The media have the responsibility of ensuring peaceful national coexistence by encouraging national integration and not simply reporting ethnic conflicts. If there are ethnic or religious conflicts, such issues must be thoroughly investigated and scrutinized with a solution driven mindset.
Positive psychologists have discovered that consuming positive stories leads to social change, and news stories that are solution oriented were shown to improve wellbeing and faith in oneself, i.e. ‘a person’s belief in their ability to make a difference’. But bad news makes people feel ‘isolated’ from society, and see the negative sides of others.
Conclusively, the media has proven to wield a powerful force over any society, but the trajectory of its capacities as a development tool is dependent on the ingenuity of editors, producers, and journalists- both in the private and government owned broadcast media.