INFLUENCE OF NEWS COMMERCIALIZATION ON THE NEWS CREDIBILITY IN BROADCAST MEDIA: A CASE STUDY OF NTA
1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
The broadcast media in any society are regarded as the purveyors of national cultures which they transmit from generation to generation. One of the means through which this activity is carried out is by the news gathering and dissemination function of the broadcast media. In a situation where news selection and presentation is based on material gratifications instead of public goals and interest has continued to raise concerns on the news credibility in the broadcast media. It is on this note that the researcher is examining the influence of news commercialization on the news credibility in broadcast media with special focus on NTA.
The broadcast media are tools for mass communication which have unique responsibilities to keep members of the society informed, educated and entertained, It is through the broadcast media that the society gets to know what is happening within and around the country and react accordingly. The basic functions of the broadcast media, according to Lasswell (1965) is to act as the society’s watchdog, they are expected to mount surveillance over the environment and correlate the components of the society to ensure effective functioning of the system which will assist in the transmission of the social heritage from generation to generation. In carrying out these functions, the broadcast media make use of several methods of collecting and disseminating information which include straight news reporting, interpretative reporting and investigative reporting. (Bo, et al 2009).
In 1980, Sean McBride commission, set up by UNESCO in its final report clearly stated that news had become commercialized, that important news in the country are put aside as un-important while trivial news items concerning urban events and the activities of highly placed personalities are given prominence and regularity by the nations’ broadcast media. Many years ago, the UNESCO’s assertion stated above has become the cardinal practice of the Nigerian media scene as news items have to be paid for by those who want to be heard. Onoja (2009) defines news commercialization as a situation whereby stations begin to raise revenue by charging fees for news reports they should normally carry free. Ekwo (1996) defines news commercialization as “a phenomenon whereby the electronic media report as news or news analysis a commercial message by an unidentifiable sponsor, giving the audience the impression that news is fair, objective and socially responsible. Omenugha, et al (2008) notes that news commercialization operates at two levels in Nigeria; at the institutional level, where charges are officially placed for sponsored news programmes. For example, Omenugha et. al. (2008) states that the Delta Broadcasting Service, Warri, charges N20,000 for religious programme, N36,000 for corporate coverage and N 25,000 for social event, while Radio Nigeria Enugu charges for commercial news N47,000, news commentary and political news N52,000, special news commentary N60,000, (Ogbuoshi, 2005). This commercialization at the institutional level is thriving because editors, publishers and owners of the broadcast stations see the organizations and their investment as a profit making venture that should yield the required financial return. Increasingly, commercial oriented news stories are taking the place of hard news monetary demands to cover an event. Idowu (1996) recounts a story that buttresses this fact. The Right Rev. Abiodun Adetiloye former Anglican Bishop of Nigeria was sited at the Murtala International Airport, Lagos, Journalists who saw him crowded him asking for interview on issues of national important. The man of God spoke at length. His views were newsworthy but the journalists felt that they needed something more to write the news. They asked for transport money. The
man of God declined, resulting in a blackout
Commercialization of news began in Nigerian media houses as a result of the structural adjustment programme (SAP) introduced in 1986 and the eventual withdrawal of subsidies from government owned media houses (Ekwo 1996, Ogbuoshi 2005, Onoja 2009). With the increasing rise in production cost and dwindling circulation, the media houses resort to all kinds of tricks including commercialization of the news to make money. This situation is what has led to a lot of compromise, with sensationalization of news stories and half truths reaching alarming stages. Arguing in favour of this practice, broadcasting organization of Nigeria (BON), an umbrella body for state owned stations said that they need the revenue to remain in business. However, Nwokoh (1996) states that the argument that auctioning of news will improve their revenue base does not hold water. They should look at other things to sell. Politics is two sensitive a subject to be sold to the highest bidder” .Just as the organization is subjected to economic pressure and tries all means not to sink, so too are individual journalists. Due to poverty and meager salary, with greater demands on the journalists to perform, they resort to all forms of unethical practices. It goes with the following names: brown envelop, African kola, transport money, assistance egunje etc. The proponents of news commercialization are arguing that news commercialization helps to generate income for the media houses, helping them to work smoothly; It also helps to generate income for the individual journalists who otherwise might slump under the weight of the harsh economic realities. It has a psychological benefit for these journalists. They develop a sense of being appreciated by those in authority, who are even ready to offer payment. It helps to impose a form of forced taxation on the rich, as those who often pay for the “service” are the well to do in the society. It acts as a form of informal redistribution of income from the rich to the poor. It helps to create cordial working relationships between the media and the media users, especially the political class (Onyisi 1996). All these assertions centre on financial gains and poverty. No matter how genuine and plausible these reasons might look, they are unacceptable and dysfunctional has it have serious influence on the news credibility.
The Nigerian Television Authority - also known as NTA - was inaugurated in 1977 and is the government-owned body in charge of television broadcasting in the country. The NTA runs the biggest television network in Africa with stations in several parts of Nigeria. Formerly known as Nigerian Television (NTV), the network began with a takeover of regional television stations in 1976 by the then Nigerian military authorities, and is widely viewed as the authentic voice of the Nigerian government.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
According to Idowu (2001), for news to be useful it has to be credible, for it to be trusted it must measure up to some exacting standard of assessment such as: accuracy (when in doubt leave out), balance (reflect all sides of the story), fairness (impartiality to all parties involved), human angle (people minded), depth (well researched/investigated), presentation (telling the story rightly), and reward (be of social relevance to audience). It is worthy to note that the watchdog role of the broadcast media is gradually being relegated in pursuit of news stories that will yield financial gains both to the broadcast organization and the journalists. McManus (2009) states that the economic rationalization of the news predicts a temporary decline of journalism’s expensive but vital watchdog function. News consumers have a vested interest in the news because it is an avenue through which they are kept informed about important events, government actions and policies, social issues etcetera. By commercialization, certain issues of social significance are set aside (deliberately or otherwise) in order to accommodate paid-for news messages. Based on these, the researcher is examining the influence of news commercialization on the news credibility in broadcast media with a focus on NTA.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The general objective of this study is to analyze the influence of news commercialization on the news credibility in broadcast media while the following are the specific objectives:
To examine the influence of news commercialization on the news credibility in broadcast media. To examine the advantages and disadvantages of news commercialization in the broadcast media. To identify strategies that will curb unethical practices in broadcast media in the face of news commercialization.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
What is the influence of news commercialization on the news credibility in broadcast media? What are the advantages and disadvantages of news commercialization in the broadcast media? What are the strategies that will curb unethical practices in broadcast media in the face of news commercialization?
1.6 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The following are the significance of this study:
Results from this study will educate the general public on the influence of news commercialization on the news credibility in broadcast media considering its advantages and disadvantages. It will also educate on the ethical and professional requirement that is expected of the journalist and the broadcast media in general. This research will be a contribution to the body of literature in the area of the influence of news commercialization on the news credibility in broadcast media, thereby constituting the empirical literature for future research in the subject area.
1.7 SCOPE/LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
The study is limited to the staffs of NTA. It will also cover the relationship between news commercialization and news credibility in NTA.
Other limitations include:
Financial constraint- Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview).
Time constraint- The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work.
1.8 DEFINITION OF TERMS
Broadcast: transmit (a program or some information) by radio or television
Commercialization: to use (something) as an opportunity to earn money
News: newly received or noteworthy information, especially about recent or important events
Credibility: the quality of being trusted and believed in
Mass media: is the means that are used to communicate to the general public.
SUMMARY, CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION
This chapter contains the summary of findings, conclusion and recommendation of this study.
5.1 SUMMARY OF FINDINGS
This study on the influence of news commercialization on news credibility in broadcast media adopted descriptive survey method and quantitative analysis in its results presentation. 100 respondents were adopted for the purpose of this study. The results revealed that news commercialization do influences the credibility of news. It further revealed the advantages and disadvantages of news commercialization. The study also shows that strict regulatory practices and adequate funding of broadcast media is the way out to unethical practices in the sector.
The commercialization of news is a contradiction to the social responsibility function of the broadcast media. News should be presented as news and not as advertising or public relations. It should be based on reporting both local and international events of social significance to the society and not treated as a profit-making life-line by broadcast media owners and journalists. Hence, the credible, objectivity, professionally approved criteria for determining news worthiness and credibility should be the guiding principle for news gathering and reporting as stipulated in the regulations.
Following the findings and the conclusions, the following recommendations are made by the researcher:
1. There is need for NBC intervene in order to mandate the broadcast media to live up to its social responsibility of protecting the publics’ right to receive reliable and accurate information.
2. Nigerian broadcast media should pay attention to the social sphere in order to adequately understand public opinion and popular interests of the people. This will guide its news gathering and reporting, as well as ensure that hardcore news becomes the focus of the news bulletin.
3. The sanctity of the news should not be tampered with. Broadcast owners should find alternative sources of funding its business such as airtime sale and commercial advertising.
4. There is need to educate the audience on the value of news and standards for judging news.
5. It is important that the media performs this social responsibility as people derive an understanding of the world from the news media through: news broadcasts, current affairs programmes, commentaries and the likes..