THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF NEWS REPORTAGE AND PRESENTATION OF NEWS IN NIGERIA (A STUDY OF TELEVISION NEWS)
This study investigated how ownership of television stations, the social structure of the Nigerian society and the deregulation of the broadcasting industry influence the reportage and presentation of news on television in the country. The research further investigated how preferential access in news reportage is given to different social classes in Nigeria.
The methodology for this research is both through use of primary sources: Focus Group Discussions (FGDs); Semi-structured Interviews (SSI) and secondary source (Content Analyses). Using the former, news editors, reporters, station managers, and viewers were interviewed. An Analyses of Variance (ANOVA) was used to test the hypotheses for the content analyses for this research.
Three stations, Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), Plateau Radio and Television (PRTV), Jos, and African Independent Television (AIT), Lagos were used as sample stations for the study. They were selected to represent the different ownership structures that exist in the country at the time of this study.
Findings from the Content Analyses, the FGDs and SSI show that all the stations were protecting the interests of their owners. However, it was found that private stations had more balanced coverage than the government owned stations. Overall, it was found that stations coverage of the news did
not differ significantly from each other in terms of ownership, social class and the deregulation of broadcast industry.
Owners of broadcast stations who also have economic power tend to be neutral in the management of their stations. However, their interests are entrenched and protected. This is because, such owners do not exist in a vacuum; they have interests, which are both economic and political. News reportage and presentation tend to support these interests.
Hence, different television stations differentially report some obvious news items, the ethic of neutrality and objectivity as ethical values in news reporting was being compromised. This state of affairs tend to further perpetuate and legitimise the existing relations of production in the society. It was found that no matter the professional ethics and difference in the ownership structure, all broadcast stations have one thing in common: to preserve the existing relations of production in the state.
It was further found that the existing differential access by different social classes in the country is exacerbated by the new commercialisation euphemism, of “Let them Pay”, which in local parlance, means those who have money to pay do have such access to news reportage more than those that cannot pay. The discussion is focused on the use of broadcasting for power and domination, and ensuring that the existing ideology of the ruling class is preserved. News items that may not meet editorial criteria filter into reportage because of its commercial value.
The contribution of this study to knowledge is, in the finding that the general belief that the media is the neutral eyes and ears of the public is a myth in Nigeria. Thus, television stations, whether private or public, hardly adhere to cardinal ethics of fairness and objectivity in Nigeria. It is recommended that community ownership of broadcast stations will improve accessibility of the ordinary people to broadcasting; it is then that the voice of the ordinary people can be heard.
INTRODUCTION TO THE RESEARCH PROBLEM
In all societies, communication is used to pass information from one person to the other or between or amongst groups. However, the form of communication differs depending on the stage of development of such a society. In other words, the stage of production of any society determines the complexity of its communication (Peil, 1976:19).
According to Peil (1976), communication in pre-industrial societies was easy, simple and mostly face-to-face. He further points out that the town announcer was often used to pass information from one person or group to others in such societies. As societies develop and become more urbanised and industrial, face-to-face communication became less efficient and constrictive. Thus, with increasing need to reach more people, the use of newspapers, radio and television has become better means of mass communication.
Television is one of such media that passes information almost instantaneously. This is because of its ability to combine audio and visual effects and its immediacy in reaching the audience (Ajia 1986:10; Lasode, 1994:48). Unlike the print media that were established at the initiative of Nigerian citizens, and used as a vehicle for venting dissatisfaction with the colonial government, the colonial government established the
first broadcast medium, the Nigerian Broadcasting Service (NBS) to facilitate its governance of the country. NBS was established in 1932 as a re-diffusion station.
According to Ake, (1981:78), Toyo (1983:3), Alubo (1990) and Madunagu (1989:25), the Nigerian society is deeply divided into the ownership of property and wealth. It is also a society characterised by great inequalities of power as a result of these divisions. One aspect of this division is that ownership of radio and television stations are concentrated in the hands of the few who own private property as well as government. Those who own property such as television stations also may also have political and economic interests. In many cases, news reportage and presentation from such stations may be skewed to protect such interests. Hence the station will usually protect such owners’ capital (Curran et al, 1977:115).
Reportage of news on television entails the provision of information on different issues at different segments of a programme. It also involves giving credibility to such event, especially, because, “Credibility in the minds of the audience being the sine qua non for news, beyond which all else is propaganda” (Smith, 1991:34). Thus the mass media have an agenda setting role, the ability to give events certain public prominence while ignoring others, as part of the processes of newsgathering and reportage. This agenda setting role according to Smyth (1991), Onoja (1992) is however not a value free exercise. In other words, the reportage of news has organisational, individual reporters and ownership bias.
One of the roles of the media is to highlight these conflicts. The media, particularly television, which should highlight conflicts, portray only selected and dominant ideas of the ruling class. This is because, the media is owned by the ruling class, thus, a case of he who pays the piper dictating the tune (Akinfeleye, 2004:20). It therefore becomes an arena for consensual values in order to obscure these conflicts in the social system. Hall (1977) has asserted that "the mass media are the most important instruments of twentieth century capitalism for maintaining ideological hegemony in that they provide the framework for perceiving reality".
Audu (1999:85) argues that the colonial radio was severely attacked by the Nigerian nationalist movement and the indigenous press as being the mouthpiece of colonial government. It was a time the Nigerian people wanted an impartial Nigeria Broadcasting Service (NBS) that would be representative of not only the government but also that of Africans. Uche, (1986:42) points out that since the colonial government controlled the colonial radio, the indigenous community had no access to its use. The emergent Federal House of Parliament in 1954 thus set in motion steps towards transforming NBS, which later became NBC into an autonomous body free from government control. According to Uche (1986:40), the Western Regional Government established its radio station in 1959.
The leader of the defunct Action Group (AG), the party in power in the region, who later became the leader of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), during the 2nd Republic, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, had criticized the Macpherson Constitution for not meeting the expectations of Nigerians. The colonial Governor- General defended the
constitution using the NBS and castigated Awolowo for unfaithfulness in the British progressive measures towards independence. Chief Awolowo made futile efforts to give a rebuttal to the Governor General using the NBS but was denied access.
For Mackay (1962:28), this encounter between the colonial Governor and Chief Awolowo resulted in attack against the NBS, which later became NBC, for failing to function impartially. It reinforced the determination of the AG to ensure that its member, Alhaji Adegbenro, who had moved the motion that led to the transformation of the NBS into the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), turned the NBS into a public corporation in line with earlier steps. Thus right from the emergence of broadcasting in Nigeria, access by the people has been a problem.
The first television station in Nigeria, Western Nigeria Television (WNTV) was thus established to ensure that the AG, who are the owners, have access to present their view on television. Subsequent establishment of television stations in the country have followed a similar pattern with owners denying others access.
The origin of television and the political development in Nigeria are linked. The ruling elite often uses television to further the cause of politics. According to Lasode (1994:18), since the National Broadcasting Service, which was the colonial radio refused to grant Chief Awolowo equal access to air a rebuttal on the radio, Chief Awolowo was furious and accused it of bias. This led to the establishment of the Western Nigeria Television (WNTV) in 1959. He further states that:
This incident also went on to be the forerunner of what is to become a very
common occurrence throughout Nigeria’s political history. Time after time, the government owned electronic broadcast media would continually be dominated by ruling political groups and used as a mouthpiece of the government of the day. Nigeria’s chequered political development is rife with the partisanship of Nigeria’s mass media (Lasode, 1994:18)
As Egbon (1992:17) also points out,
Perhaps this was a device calculated to spite the Federal authorities and gain political advantage over the other regional governments. The other regional governments responded in a very competitive spirit; hence a poor and unindustrialised country like Nigeria in the sixties, had four different systems of television service. Despite the obvious reasons advanced by the regional governments for this expensive mass medium in Nigeria at the time, it would appear that the motivations were certainly more than merely having a voice in national issues. Radio would have been cheaper to establish to carry the regional message across the political borders. The introduction of this status symbol enterprise, in the country, that at time was relatively poor, has to have something to do with state pride and prestige.
This competition among the regions marked the beginning of broadcasting in Nigeria. The trend has continued among states till today.
BACKGROUND TO THE PROBLEM
The mid 18th century has been identified as the era of liberalism having free market economy as its underlying principle. According to Mohammed (1994), this market model upholds the duty of government not only to defend the territorial integrity of the nation, but also to ensure that law and order exist, and at the same time leaving all aspects of national life to entrepreneurial forces. This is the concept of laizzez faire, which was propounded by Adam Smith. As an economic principle, it contradicted the prevailing social and economic order of agrarian societies.
Revolutionary capitalism was thus synonymous with economic prosperity and state ownership with retrogression, symbolised by total and absolute monopoly of the material means of production by the feudal class and the Catholic Church. Breaking state control of the mode of production, the major thrust of capitalism with slogans such as liberty, equality, and fraternity was synonymous with socio-political and economic stakes of capitalist class, which was to wrest power away and participate in the ownership of the mode of production from feudal dominance.
According to Mohammed, (1994:36), the driving law of capitalism is the maximisation of profit. This culminated into the industrial revolution of late 18th and 19th centuries in Europe. Liberal democracies provided the political cloak in respect of participation in government. The British monarchical regimes of old gave way to Republican constitution, which enabled the people to exercise the right of who should rule them, and how much power, they should exercise in that regard. The ideology and cultural correlation of this principle found position and role accorded the mass media. They are seen as instruments necessary for the success of democracy. Citing Mansfield, Mohammed points out that this is based on the principle that:
The people must be supplied with the knowledge they thirst for. But this must be done in such a way as not to interfere with their judgment. The media report what is said and pass on every allegation. Thus, the information must be neutral and objective; there must be equality of access to the mass media in terms of ownership and content (Mohammed 1994:38).
This principle is based on the fact that plurality in access and ownership would lead to truth, which would guarantee the citizens the right to determine and
judge things for themselves in democracy. In this case, media content would be said to be qualitative if all views are considered and presented to the public without coloration. Later day monopoly capitalism shows dominance in monopoly concerns with tentacles in various sectors of the economy including broadcasting.
According to Mohammed (1994:47), the high level of state involvement in the economy of most European countries in the post world war years gave rise to state capitalism, a point where the capitalist state is not only a guarantor of the existing social order but an investor in capitalist monopoly concerns. In the eighties, there was a return of the conservatives to power in Britain, Germany, Italy, Greece, Australia and Spain, all leading industrialised countries of the world. The triumph of these conservative forces further helped to bring to the forefront the issue of privatisation and sometimes commercialisation as a policy for their economy’s revival. This was subsequently adopted by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank which elevated them to central elements of the Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAP), often recommended to Third World countries, including Nigeria as a means of resolving their economic crises. It is within this global political economy of the 1980s that Nigeria conceived of, and embarked upon the deliberate execution of the policy of privatisation and commercialisation.
For Mohammed (1994: 48), the policy thrust was to keep organisations, corporations and entrepreneurs alert to their responsibilities. As Alubo (1990: 45) maintains, what is now known as the Nigerian economic crises is the outward manifestation of the structural dis-articulation, particularly with reference to
production, food supply and other social services. These crises, he also said, have ironically fostered greater integration of Nigeria into international capitalism, which is ironic, because it was this annexation that initially, precipitated the crises in the first place. This greater integration is fostered through the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) and other IMF/World Bank therapies that are now the acclaimed blueprints for economic recovery.
As part of this accelerated incorporation package, the supremacy of market forces is emphasised…these adjustments have consolidated the foreign stranglehold in several ways. Small indigenous businessmen, who are less able to adapt have been driven into bankruptcy while the MNCs assume near total control (Alubo, 1990:48).
Every economic structure determines the type of media existing in such country. According to Siebert, et al, (1963:78) and Akinfeleye (2004:18), authoritarianism is a system where a nation has absolute control of all its structures including the media. This control includes the restriction on information content and its structures. Here, the press is both conceptually and structurally guarded by the government in power, ownership and control is the preserve of the government, loyal party members or both. The libertarian model is based on freedom of information by and for the citizens. Here, the information flow is assumed to be free of censorship. According to Siebert, et al (1963:83), because of plurality of views, readers and viewers can select from a diverse message and arrive at the truth by themselves. Such views are expected to be objective. But as Onoja (1992) points out, no news is neutral. Nigeria emerging from 25 years of military dictatorship still retains a lot of the vestiges of authoritarianism.
Under the libertarian model, there is a free flow of information with all members of the society having free access and exit to information. Here, freedom of the press is assumed to be a necessary panacea for development of the society (Siebert, et al, 1963; Onoja, 1984). But as Amin (1973) notes, the relationship between developing and underdeveloped economies allow only for an unequal exchange. This also includes relationship within the media
For Akinfeleye (1987:20), the Nigerian media is still controlled by the government in power. There is no freedom of information act in the Nigerian constitution. Under the fundamental objectives and principles of state policy, section 21 of 1979 constitution compels the Nigerian press to monitor the governance and make the government accountable to the people. However this long period of military rule has negated this important role of the media. This is due to the military’s rigid control of the press.
THE RESEARCH PROBLEM
Television as a form of mass communication has continued to attract significant level of recognition in the development of the society and social interactions. Studies indicate that more people use television as a source of news than any other medium today (Moemeka, 1973:7; Okigbo 2000:17) because of its advantage of combining audio and visual effects.
In a survey of news media preferences among 300 residents in Jos Metropolis, Ajia (1986) found television to be the most preferred medium with 56 percent, followed by radio, with 26 percent of the respondents. The print media: newspapers and magazines trailed with 15 and 3 percent respectively. Among the mass media channels, television is the most pervasive medium in most countries of the world. According to Okigbo (2000:8), watching television ranks higher than reading, listening to the radio, showering or bathing.
Television has obvious effects on the viewers. This medium described as a mass culture has the power of pacification and stupefying the masses (Moemeka, 1989:7; Jay, 1972). News on television is a prepackaged set of ideas mass produced and disseminated to people. These actions are the work of the ruling elite, which media managers belong (Golding, 1977). These managers create, process, refine and preside over the circulation of images and information, which determine beliefs and attitudes and ultimately, behaviour. Hence, they have been called, “mind managers” (Schiller, 1976), who produce images that do not necessarily correspond to the realities of social existence. The role of broadcasting in reproducing the power relations and ideological structure of society, Hall (1977:210) argues, appears more central an issue than its incidental kickbacks.
The content of television news and the environment within which it is presented serve to relay and reinforce dominant definitions of the situations and to exclude alternatives. Moemeka further explains the impact of such mind management when he states that: "the mass media may not be successful in telling their audience
what to think but are stunningly successful in telling their audience what to think about. This is domination of the consciousness" (Moemeka 1989:6)
Hall (1977) and Moemeka (189:8) assert that the mass media have progressively colonised the cultural and ideological sphere. Control over the mass media offers several important possibilities- attracting and directing attention to people, problems and or solutions in ways which can favour those in power, and correlatively, diverting attention from rival individuals or groups; conferring status and legitimacy. Control over the mass media therefore gives the power elite veritable channels for persuasion and mobilisation. More importantly, the mass media are vehicles for offering psychic rewards and gratification (Cohen and Young, 1973). For instance television is often used to appeal to the masses to understand policies along the line of government and also keep them from any form of protest against such government policies that may be detrimental to their lives (Dahl, 1961).
The ability of the mass media to create publics, define issues, provide common terms of reference and thus allocate attention and power imbues the media with power over the audience. This has been recognised by the power elite and is evidenced in the way governments devise means to control the media: either controlling them completely or providing guidelines within which they will operate freely but with responsibility (Adorno and Horkheimer 1977). As Mills (1976) reminds the world, we are living in an environment of constant mass communication, which we experience hourly, and daily. He said that because we take this environment for granted, we might have lost touch with the reality of its influence.
Through a sustained conditioning of attitudes of the people, television news set the agenda for discussions, thoughts and actions. The day- to- day political education and information is not only narrowed, but also dictated by the worldview of the dominant class. Access to broadcast programming is limited to a tiny literate member of the urban fragment. In the case of television, access is restricted to an elite who has power and wealth. According to Ayu, (1983), in third world countries, capital, literacy level in association with the media’s cultural roots effectively marginalise the central issues of political life. He also points out that
When consumers of this disarticulated western cultural propaganda sit down to fashion out an ostensibly democratic programme, they vomit the bile of western imperialism swallowed over the years. This results in assemblage of contradicting and confusing statements hurriedly put together by their intellectual hired hands, thus violating the tenet of the very democratic structure they set out to construct, leading to pitfalls in democracy and freedom for most third world countries. (Ayu: 1983:125)
In Nigeria, the structure of ownership of broadcast stations has predominance of government and sole proprietorship of immense wealth, who have partisan political and economic agenda and interest (Golding, 1977:78). In certain cases, the managers are mere front- professionals for the real owners, including foreigners (Oyovbaire 2001: 22). Here, the station not only serves the professional role and mandate assigned to it by the constitution and society but also the political agenda, objectives and motivations of the owners. Such owners see their medium as the political extension of their economic powers, as well as possible ladder for political power or influence. Onoja (1992: 18) observes how late Chief M.K.O Abiola, who wanted to contest the Presidency in 1983 put his newspaper, the National Concord to use for the National
Party of Nigeria (NPN) the ruling party in the country then. At that time, the newspaper was used to propagate the policies of the NPN. But when he did not win the presidential candidacy, his newspaper quickly changed its editorial policies to attacking the party. Since then, the newspaper has collapsed.
The pluralism of the Nigerian media is mediated by the monopoly worldview of the property class. Thus most socio-political programmes and commentaries by stations show that television is not objective in the coverage of events and analyses of issues. It is indeed a capitalist press. As Oyovbaire puts it,
The increasing problems of social classes and class formation, increasing poverty and pauperisation of the Nigerian social formation, mass unemployment of even graduates from tertiary institutions, --- do not usually attract media attention to mobilise and build popular consciousness against them or to resolve them. The wretched of the earth are yet to be a subject matter… In other words, Nigeria has only an establishment media. (Oyovbaire, 2001:22).
When there is a threat to capital, the media provide adequate publicity. For instance, when issues such as armed robbery attract media attention, it is most likely to be when property belonging to the ruling class are involved or they are physically assaulted. For Curran et al, (1977:186) pluralism of television programming further rests on the monopoly of the market. Thus, the issue of making profit is paramount. He also points out that the agenda setting role of the media includes deliberate suppression of otherwise critical issues of public interest, gross diversion of public attention away from matters of natural interest, selective targets as issues for personalities and national discourses, deliberate foisting upon the public particular images as well as contents about public policy.
Curran et al, (1977:195), further state that such social conflict is relayed as if it would normally affect everybody in the society. They assert that “issues are presented as if they have very serious consequences” (Curran et al 1977:196).
The mode of ownership of property in a society may however affect the reportage of events. It could either be positive or negative, depending on the owner’s interest. According to Sobowale (1986:48) there is no appreciable difference in news coverage between the private and the government owned media. This is because, the media, whether public or private is controlled by those who own property and wealth, and who also belong to the ruling class (Mohammed, 1994:90). Sobowale (1986) found that the government owned media carried a higher number of favorable stories in favour of government in their news column than the privately owned ones. Ibrahim (1989:16) argue that whatever the stated motive of establishing news media, it is not a neutral agent in class and ideological conflict. For Ibrahim:
By helping to define issues, set the agenda, the tone of the public debate and interpret events, the mass media perform an ideological function that helps, ultimately either to confer legitimacy on existing arrangements in the society or to question or offer alternatives. This is one reason why government own and control the media. (Ibrahim 1989:17).
Thus setting up broadcast stations has continued to be priority to private entrepreneurs, state and federal governments.
This study is concerned with examining the role of television and access to the stations in modern Nigerian society. It is not about news per se, but its effects, disguised in news reportage and presentation. There is the general belief that television
news reportage and presentation is neutral because journalists in the course of their duties are expected to uphold professional ethics of fairness and balance in their news reportage (The National Broadcasting Code, 1997). This neutrality is expected to be the hallmark of news production: unbiased reportage and presentation irrespective of class relations.
Different kinds of broadcast ownership are guided by necessary laws and regulated by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC). Irrespective of the ownership structure, they all subscribe to certain professional values and ethics. Even the NBC Code Section 188.8.131.52 states that fairness and balance must be exhibited at all times in the coverage of news in television. Despite these professional claims, there must be some other factors that may not be explicitly stated, such as the influence of ownership on reportage of news. For instance, in a federal, state government or private medium, how much objectivity and fairness can be expected in such a medium particularly if the owner has an interest in a particular issue, or if such reportage will put the owner in bad light.
But as pointed out by Norall and Norall (1975:144), partisan reportage is tied to the ownership structure, and it is expected to legitimise the ideology of an existing society. They also argue that bias reporting consists not only certain slices of behaviuor typical of a social class, bizarre or dramatic, but a good deal of less dramatic events, but no less dramatic behavior is overlooked. This research will investigate how such claims of neutrality are carried out while at the same time legitimizing the role of the owners.
Segilman (1983:144) also asserts that differential coverage in preference of a social class is organisationally structured to avoid conflict between the media operators.
In this research, the focus is on how television news contributes to the sustenance of this myth of neutral ideology in Nigeria. This study is therefore an account of how news is produced, manipulated and presented, while at the same time hiding its bias in favour of the owners.
There is also the added claim by government and people that the deregulation of the television industry will lead to pluralistic views, that is to say, there will be divergent views on issues. But the problem is, those who own or control television stations have congruent economic and political ambitions. Even when other members of the ruling class feel their views are not properly represented in such medium, they seek to establish their own. That is to say that political and economic interests could also lead to fractionalisation of the ruling class. This research also seeks to find out how, in pursuit of legitimation, television news lays claim to ideological neutrality. But as Alubo (1990) has pointed out, these values do not exist in a vacuum but are anchored in material production and reproduction. Maduka (1997) commenting on partisan use of the mass media particularly during electoral campaigns states that television is always used particularly during the 1983 election. This study will further investigate how television is used for partisanship through denial of access to a particular class of people while at the same time orchestrating another.
This partisan use of the media by the ruling class continues even during the military era. This time, no opposition was tolerated. For instance, the Buhari regime promulgated Decree 4, of March 29, 1984.Titled Public Officers Protection Against False Accusation, the decree stated that any person who publishes or broadcasts in any form, whether written or otherwise, any message, rumour, report or statement which is false in any material particular, or which brings the Federal Military Government or the government of a state or a public officer to ridicule or disrepute, shall be guilty of an offence. As Mommoh (192002:24) explains, Decree 4 purportedly wants to punish not just publications or broadcasts that brought or tended to bring a government into disrepute, but also embarrassed government or public officers. The truth of a statement as a defense was no longer tenable in this bid of military regime to protect themselves.
There is also the problem of decaying family values, which has been exacerbated by television programming. N’Abba (2001:6) points out that it is a matter of concern that Nigerian electronic media have become channels of destroying family moral values of the society. Most television stations do not show respect for African traditional sensibility and modesty in matters of interpersonal comportment. Many television stations broadcast movies, which exhibit uninhibited sex and criminal violence. This is same of the quality of foreign music broadcast in Nigeria today, which tends to corrupt and incite adolescents that constitute the larger population of television audience.
Beyond our national borders, our image as a nation continues to be periled and diminished in the estimation of other countries that wrongly mirror us as a country of
gangsters, cultists, hustlers and bandits. This negative national image is reinforced by obnoxious contents of movies transmitted on our television channels. This is rather damning even as we know that this is definitely not a true depiction of the character and lifestyles of the people of this country.
In this research, focus will also be on how stations give preferential access of presentation and reportage to those who are in power. For instance, why is it that in news programming by broadcast stations, the single most significant broadcasting icon is usually the Head of State, to the utter neglect of Africa’s domestic capacity and all other voices and perspectives. Commenting on television, Okigbo (2000:3) observes that television news starts with the President or some other activity in some Government Houses, continues with focus on the most significant cabinet ministers before it is spiced with some remote events, including international news. There is the allegation that television news starts with the government and ends with it. Thus there is “the minister say culture”, that has turned broadcasting into public relations with the dissemination of government propaganda as its top priority. Limited resources available to stations are used to ensure that all activities of the government are covered with what they term their broadcast entitlements.
In certain cases, broadcast stations are used to govern the people. Some African rulers literally govern their countries through radio or television, and some people have even been relieved of their posts through this medium. Audu (1999:140) pointed out such an instance as it affected Mr. Patrick Ityohegh, then Director of News and Ms Gold Oruh, then manager News of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) in
1991. The two officers were dismissed on air during a special network broadcast. The reason given was their alleged refusal to broadcast a statement phoned in by Mr. Nduka Irabor, Chief Press Secretary to then Chief of General Staff (CGS), Rear Admiral Augustus Aikhomu.
This is to the effect that Mr. Fidelis Oyakhilome, Director General of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, had been dismissed. Mr. Oyakhilome was replaced with Mr. Fulani Kwajafa. It took the intervention of the Director General of NTA, Malam Mohammed Ibrahim, who insisted that the two officers were duly carrying out normal newsroom procedures, of not airing unauthenticated news and so requested that the officers should be reinstated. More so, as the news item was phoned in only ten minutes to airtime, which did not leave room for confirmation. Since the news was not aired, an angry CGS directed that the two officers be relieved of their positions for their effrontery in refusing to carry the news on the ill-fated day.
Most times television stations in their news presentation and reportage also engage in sycophancy by praise singing persons who have economic power, particularly those who could patronize them with adverts or its owners. For as Gana states, broadcast stations have somersaulted into the un-edifying practice of yesteryears, the days of remorseless sycophancy, misuse of electronic media, abuse of the essence of deregulation; that it is serving as the trumpet of a tiny cabal especially in government owned media
Audu (2000:8) gave an instance, in the last days of General Ibrahim Babangida, former Head of State of the military junta, after scuttling the election won
by late Chief M.K.O Abiola. The Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) and the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) reported visits of traditional rulers and members of the Association for Better Nigeria (ABN) alleging that the election was unconstitutional and urged General Ibrahim Babangida to stay on in power. But when reality of the election dawned on the military government, it made a quick exit for Chief Ernest Shonekan to take over. In the same manner, Audu (2001:10), states that when the late General Sani Abacha mooted the idea of succeeding himself, it was the same NTA that was used to set the agenda, and carried a jingle of “he who the cap fits”, an eulogy of the then Head of State on his achievements and why he should continue in power. But the reality on the ground was that the Head of state was using the state apparatus to kill, maim and destroy opposing groups.
This study also seeks to investigate the problem of programming which has been watered down by the introduction of commercialization in our television stations through the sale of airtime for news and programmes. Schiller (1976:7) has used a more encompassing term, “cultural imperialism”, in reference to the penetrative forces of television programming in dependent countries. He said that this occurs more, through commercialisation of programmes and importation of basic infrastructure.
This study will further investigate instances where the controlling political elite uses television stations to deny their political opponents access to the medium, even when they can pay for such news coverage. For Adaba (1998:12), commercialisation of news is used specifically to denote the sale of an entire newscast to a so called ‘sponsor’, whose logo or message or product is continuously displayed or relayed
throughout the newscast, or charging news sources for the privilege of covering and relaying their pre-packaged views or messages as news.
The implication of commercialisation is that only the ruling class who have wealth, power and can afford to pay for news often have access to be represented in television news broadcast, making it a privilege for the ruling class, thus ruling class ideas are the ideas that are propagated by the press. Boyd-Barret (1977:7) sees this privilege as imposition of ruling class ideas. He points out that this is worsened by the present situation whereby, ownership, distribution and content of the media in one country are singly or together dependent or subject to external pressures from the media interest of any one country or countries without proportional reciprocation of the receiving country. In all these authorities cited, no effort has been made to situate the content of news and influence of ownership and control of television stations on the Nigerian state in terms of philosophy, economy and the social structure. The effect of commercialization of news in our television stations has also not been properly investigated. This work is therefore a contribution towards filling such gap.
These problems will be investigated at three stations. These are Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), Plateau Radio and Television (PRTV) and African Independent Television (AIT). These stations represent the different ownership structure of Federal, State and private ownership in the country as at the time of this research. Four issues: Coverage rights controversy of the Nation’s cup in Mali 2002, fuel price strike of January 2002, the motion for the impeachment of the President in August 2002 and the electoral bill controversy would be used to investigate these
problems using content analyses. Also, focus group discussions and semi-structured interviews would be held to investigate these problems.
On the bases of the problems enumerated above, we propose the following research questions:
1. What is the philosophy of news reportage by television stations in Nigeria? What is the economic and socio-cultural base of such philosophy? Is there any
2. What is the extent of neutrality and objectivity in news reporting with regard to ownership and how are these values sustained?
3. What is the nature of bias? Is it possible to determine the source of bias? The
owners, managers, administrators, programme producers or the newsmen?
4. What is the role of political and economic interests in such neutrality and
5. What are the implications for what passes for news?
OBJECTIVES OF THE RESEARCH
i. To identify the philosophical and socio-economic bases of news reportage by television stations in Nigeria.
ii. To determine the influence of ownership on reportage of news in television stations and the pattern of such news reportage;
iii. To examine the present deregulation system and its influence on news reportage;
iv. To examine the differences that might exist in news reportage of issues in terms of prominence, depth, picture coverage and other footages involved, particularly, as it relates to different classes in Nigeria.
These issues will be examined with particular reference to state or private interference as reflected in the different ownership structures in the country using Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), African Independent Television (AIT) and Plateau Radio and Television (PRTV).
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
1. Television is a medium that is relied upon and confers status on those who have access to it. It is a powerful medium and thus the control of what passes through it as news and commercials has wide impact on the viewing public. This is necessary to understand the slant, if any, in news reportage and presentation.
2. Television news also has the power to mould opinion. If news is biased it is likely to affect public opinion. Thus, it can be used to control and mould public
opinion. Given the potentials of television, it has often been used to re-engineer the society. Examples of previous cases in Nigeria are the introduction of Mass Mobilisation for Social and Economic Recovery (MAMSER), Privatisation and the current Anti-corruption crusade. These potentials could be used to sustain particular interest, by selling such ideas through television.
3. Those who control television also determine what people know. This is important during democracy, particularly when canvassing for votes depend on what the people know about the candidate. A candidate may be given advantage of a live coverage over other candidates, which could result in massive support. As Macquail points out, television can popularise a candidate and confer certain celebrity status on him even before he or she seeks political office. (Mcquail, 197: 49).
4. Television news is often regarded as a credible means of mass communication. This study will draw viewers’ attention to influences or manipulations or hidden bias in news reportage. This study will further contribute to the understanding of the nature of news reported and presented in Nigeria.
5. It will also contribute to the understanding of the sociological analyses of the mass media particularly how ownership and control of television stations affect reportage of news and other events in the Nigerian society.
6. For any rigorous policy formulation to be carried out now and in future in the television industry, there is a need to analyse its contributions both in the past and present. This is why a study like this becomes very relevant.
7. There is also a problem of dearth of literature on the subject matter. Materials are scattered in different fields such as broadcasting, politics, sociology, journalism, history, the arts and humanities. This study will bring together information from different fields, using primary and secondary sources for the fieldwork.
Definition of Terms
News: All types of news can be divided into two: Straight news, which is usually superficial and largely un-interpretive while the second type, is in-depth or interpretive news. However, some kind of news, events, process or situation cannot be effectively handled at the acquaintance-with level, because the audience may not understand it. It therefore requires more in-depth analyses.
Other types of news could be described as event centred and process centred reportage. Process centred news are in-depth news reportage and analyses, un- interpreted coverages of processual, multi-dimensional and continuing set of activities, with multi-implication for human beings. Event centred news are organisational products that are created or manufactured reality that are subject to, or affected by various human limitations, organisational influence, political and other social factors that can conspire to act as constraints in the process of reportage. This makes it necessary to advise journalists working in their various beats to always bear in mind or be guided by the research-supported fact that the facts we see depend on where we are placed and the habits of our eyes.
Voice over: This is a situation where a report carries footages but not the sound byte of the person shown. It is used to describe the situation in a news report.
Actuality: A situation where the sound on the television is the actual person being shown or the actual remarks of the person making a remark.
Logbook: This is a record of all transmission of programmes of a station. They are usually kept at the transmitting room.
The preceding chapter will concentrate on reviewing relevant literature on news reportage and how it affects the society.