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AN ANALYSIS OF MEDIA OWNERSHIP AND THE CREDIBILITY OF NEWS REPORTING IN NIGERIA
The issues of media ownership and control can never be overemphasized due to the dwindling situations surrounding media practice in Nigeria. The media is said to take the coloration of where the practice is being carried out i.e the way the media operates in Nigeria cannot be the same as the way it will function in other countries such as Soviet Union, United States, Britain etc. The study is aimed at reviewing the various types of media ownership and how it is being controlled either privately or publicly and how the control affects the media operation linking it to the Marxist and Pluralist theory. The study revealed among other things that although Nigerian private media flourishes but their continuity depends on not overstepping or overriding on the government power. Individual own the media while government policies influences its operation. The study recommends that both private and government media should be allowed to practice freely without any internal or external forces. The media should not allowed to the hands of the rich at the expense of the poor.
1.1 Background of the Study
Media as a watchdog and the mirror of the nation perform crucial roles in the society and as well it is influence in its editorial policy. Lazar field and Kendal (2002,p.32), insist that mass is truly applicable to the medium of radio for it more than other media in reaching all groups of the population uniform’’ but before we proceed with this work, we will include not only the mechanical devices that transmit and sometimes, messages (TV cameras, radio microphones, printing press) but also the institution that use these machines to transmit messages. When we talk about the mass media of television, radio, newspaper, magazine, sound recoding and film, we will be referring to the people, the policies the organization and the technology that go into productions of mass communication Dominick (2007).
Mass media are technology that is intended to reach a mass audience. It is the primary means of communication used to reach the vast majority of the general public. The most common platforms for mass media are newspapers, magazines, radio, television, and the Internet Ngoa (2006). The general public typically relies on the mass media to provide information regarding political issues, social issues, entertainment, and news in pop culture.
Through mass media, news outlets have a major influence on the general public and a major impact on the public’s opinion on certain topics. In many cases, the mass media is the only source that the general public relies on for news. For example, when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon in 1969, mass media made it possible for the public to witness this historical event.
Sponsorship of the media house, its control and recruitment of its principal staff have formed the influential factors consequent upon the editorial policy of the media house since the owner(s) of the media house usually does or do the afore-stated factors (Nordenstreng 2005). The media ownership has therefore in some ways influenced the editorial policy and this has posed problems to journalism as a trade. In this case, the editorial writing has to function with the policy framework and editorial principles. Nothing runs the editor down as having the option of either doing it the way the policy dictates or he resigns or otherwise sacked. Influence of media ownership on editorial policy have made many newspapers to collapse in operations and have also made them to lose their readership grip (Nordenstreng 2005). In the case of a Announcer Newspapers, as a privately owned Newspaper, if dies not have so many policies that usually affect its readership except that its front and back page stories are centered on Imo state. Often times, it faces the stiff competition of the national and other local newspapers. Again, people from other state would always see the purchase of the newspaper as a waste since it does not usually spread its tentacles.
According to Uche, (2009,p.56). The owners of the media in Nigeria are not only major capitalists in their own right but are also closely linked to the ruling circles around the globe. Further more, result Indicates that the current media ownership pattern in Nigeria negatively affects the ability of the media to perform without hindrance. This is exemplified by the situation where media practitioners working in both private and public media organizations make sure that their reports are not perceived as ‘unfavorable’ by the government of the day.
The reality is that public media which are financed with public funds and controlled by public officials do not criticize government actions or inactions because of fear of sanctions (Uche, 2009). Many media executives in the public media have been known to lose their jobs because they disagreed with government officials. Some private media outfits established by associates of public officials indirectly influence the running of private media out fits.
“He who pays the piper calls the tune’’ is a common statement in the media. Ownership has continued to play an influential role in the editorial policies of media organisations. It is so bad in some media organisations that the ethics of journalism are exchanged with the opinions and decisions of the proprietors of the organisation. Dare (2000) while writing on the influence of ownership on mass media content said, “ there is no doubt that owners in market based media have ultimate power over content and can ask for what they want to be included or left.” This is against the ethics of journalism. The influence of media ownership is felt more by government owned media organisations especially in Africa. In countries like the United States of America and Britain, there are laws meant to check the excesses of owners. In Britain, there is limited (if any) influence on the content produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation by government. According to McQuail (2007), Meyer’s survey evidence confirmed that US journalistic ethics frowned on owner intervention, although editors reported a fair autonomy in practice.” Contrary to this survey, Schultz’s study of Australian journalists showed strong support for the fourth estate role but also a recognition that it was often compromised by commercial consideration and owner pressure. According to a report compiled by Media Development and Diversity Agency in South Africa, control of any media company can be divided into three: Shareholdings and equity, general management and editorial control.
According this report, “There are codes of good practise that govern how media controllers (editor and station managers) interact as laid out by regulatory bodies.” But how many media owners stick to these codes? In Africa, government has continuously used the state owned media to crush the voice of the opposition. Many governments have used these media to their advantage during presidential elections campaigns across the continent, especially if the government in power is contesting. In such cases, the opposition would have to turn to God for a miracle. Melody in Meier, stated that “in addition to ownership concentration of the mass media industry, content provision, packaging and distribution have also become a standardised production and marketing process in which the messages communicated are contained and directed in both quantity and quality to meet the economic imperatives of media owners.” Giddens in Meier said, “The media have a double relation to democracy. On the one hand the emergence of a global information society is a powerful democratising force. Yet, television, and the other media, tend to destroy the very public.” Within the context of supporting democratic transitions, the goal of media development generally should be to move the media from one that is directed or even overtly controlled by government or private interests to one that is more open and has a degree of editorial independence that serves the public interest.
Omu, F. (2000) stated that “the earlier mass media of press and broadcasting were widely seen as beneficial (even necessary) from the conduct of democratic politics.” Considering the fact that those who have the resources to own media organisations will always have the upper hand in terms of prominence in the news, McQuail (2009) said “the typical organisation and forms of mass communication limit access and discourage active participation and dialogue.” Government control of print and broadcast media in many African countries leave little scope for discussing opinions and therefore, public debate. According to a document produced by the Office of Democracy and governance in the United States of America in 1999, access to information is essential to the health of democracy for at least two reasons: First, it ensures that citizens make responsible, informed choices rather than acting out of ignorance or misinformation. Second, information serves a ‘checking function’ by ensuring that elected representatives uphold their oaths of office and carried out the wishes of those who elected them. In Africa, the perceived significance of the mass media in strengthening democracy on the continent led to the African Charter for Popular Participation in Development and Transformation, which was developed in Arusha, Tanzania in 1990.
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