PROJECT TOPIC: INFLUENCE OF NEWS COMMERCIALIZATION ON THE NEWS CREDIBILITY IN BROADCASTING MEDIA, A CASE STUDY OF TV CONTINENTAL
News commercialization is a practice that has come to stay with the Nigerian society as a result of news being liberalized and deregulated by advertisers who insist that whatever they are sponsoring must be presented within the news belt ( Una, Frank Uzochukwu, P10.2014) .Asogwa and Asemah (2012, P.3) therefore says that news has been commercialized to the extent that only the rich get their ideas communicated to the members of the public. It is therefore essential for the media operators to know that by charging money, they are reducing their credibility in the eyes of the public. Instead of them to be controller of news, it is now the advert companies that determine the pace and flow of news, and what constitutes news at any point time. This paper presents a theoretical approach of Market News production and review of relevant literature, examines Commercialization of News in Broadcast Media in Nigeria and also evaluates the divergent views for news commercialization.
- 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. Israel Udomisor and Akutus Kenneth (2013) believed that Commercialization as a concept gained much currency in Nigeria in 1986 . Israel Udomisor and Akutus Kenneth (2013) citing Ekwo 1996; Ogbuoshi 2005; Onoja 2009 explained further that the arrival Commercialization of news began in Nigerian media houses as a result of the structural adjustment programme (SAP) introduced by the Babangida regieme and the eventual withdrawal of subsidies from government owned media houses.
Ugande (2011) believe that structural adjustment programme (SAP) introduced by the Babangida was in consonance with the deregulation of the economy. Consequently, government subvention to public enterprises dropped. According to him the number of enterprises both private and public, but particularly public, began to experience the hard knocks of economic hardship.
Ugande (2011)also explained that the Mass Media particularly public service Radio and Television which had hitherto relied on solely government subventions, were the first to receive the shocking effects of S.A.P. and the government reduction in subvention at once led them to many difficulties. Among those were: Inability to payoff salaries, Inability to procure equipment and They could no longer service their equipment.
Ugande (2011) also stated that NTA and FRCN were left with no alternative than to devise several other means of making money to cope with stringent economic measures embarked upon by the government. One such means was the commercialization of news in the broadcast media. This is now being practiced throughout the country. Udomisor and Kenneth (2013) stated that this situation is what has led to a lot of compromise, with sensationalization of news stories and half truths reaching alarming stages but the broadcasting organization of Nigeria (BON), an umbrella body for state owned stations said that they need the revenue to remain in business.In recognition of the above assertion Udomisor and Akutus (2013 )citing, Nwokoh (1996) also states that the argument that auctioning of news will improve their revenue base does not hold water. According to him 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.
While, Udomisor and Akutus (2013);Nnorom (1994) cited in Ekwo (1996:63) sees news commercialization as a phenomenon whereby the broadcast media report news or news analysis a commercial message by an unidentifiable sponsor, giving the audience the impression that news is fair, objective and socially responsible. Thus, it is only organizations and individuals that have money to spend that can gain access to the media during news time for a prescribed fee.
Ugande (2011) in his view also says that news commercialization refers to a situation where individuals, communities, private and public enterprises, non-profit making organizations, local governments, state governments and ministries gain access to the mass media during news time for a prescribed fee. According to him the message they want to put across is then couched in a news form and included in the news bulletin. Also news analysis, news commentary can be bought by prospective customers who remain unidentified.
Tsebee and Odorume also states that definition of news has been rendered useless with news becoming what money can buy. Euphemia Asogwas and Ezekiel S. Asemah (2012), Una, Frank Uzochukwu (2014) therefore argued further that in the mass media news has to be paid for by those who want to be heard.
The dual academician explains further that by this practice, it becomes difficult for those who are financially handicapped to have access to the media. Thus, it is only organizations and individuals that have money to spend that can gain access to the media during news time for a prescribed fee (Asemah, 2011, p.32).
This also negate one of the major tenets or Constitutional responsibility of the media as outlined in chapter 2 of the 1999 constitution that says the media shall at all times be responsible to people in the dissemination of inform and educate the members of the society. It also breach the general guidelines on news as encapsulated in section 5.1.3 of the Nigerian Broadcasting code which states that: as news, in all its forms, is universally accepted as sacred, sponsorship of news casts, commentaries, analysis, current affair programmes and editorials detract from the integrity and predispose a bias in favour of the sponsors. Therefore, news programmes shall not be sponsored in any manner including the use of commercial backdrops.
In addition, section 5.1.18 of the code also stipulates that: “commercial in news and current affairs programmes shall be clearly identified and presented in a manner that shall make them clearly distinguishable”.
Despite the stand of National Broadcasting Commission on this issue, Nigerian Broadcast Stations are finding it difficult to comply with this directive because of the enormous challenges they are facing to keep their stations running. According to Tsebee and Odorume One major challenge is that of advertisers who insist that whatever they are sponsoring must be presented within the news belt.
Tom Adaba (2000), one time Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) also makes a distinction between the legitimate sales of airtime for paid messages adjacent to or within breaks in the news and charging news sources for the privilege of covering and relaying their pre-paid views or messages as news.
According to Uzochukwu (2014) citing Tom Adaba in the first case, what the sponsors are buying is the credibility of the newscast and newscasters to confer status by association on their company’s logo, message or product” while in the latter: What the broadcast station is doing is selling cheaply the integrity of its newscast and newscasters by attesting to the “truth” of the claims of the so called “sponsor”. By also charging and receiving fees by whatever name called, to cover ‘news’ of company annual conference meeting, weddings, funeral, chieftaincy installation, town festivals, workshops and seminars, even events organized by charity organizations, the stations are not only prostituting the integrity of news, but equally insulting their audience and breaching the National Broadcasting Code.
The paper therefore examines Commercialization of News in Broadcast Media in Nigeria. According to Odunlami and Adaja (2015) the practicability and relevance of media’s claim and capacity to service and protect the interest of the masses and national development in the wake of the commercialization and tabloidization currents which compel them to operate essentially as commercial organizations with a radical shift of paradigm in content packaging in favour of human interest and entertainment stories for as a bait for audience catchment and expectations of returns on the investment of their owners.
- Statement of the problem
The birth of news commercialization has not only affected the level of ethical standards in journalism practice, but it has also tilted news towards one direction: to meet the interest of those who pay for the news. This has in turn affected the quality of news reports and credibility of journalists and the news content itself. The implication is that Nigerians no longer trust what they hear or see in the broadcast media. The commercialization phenomenon posed a lot of challenges to the credibility of the news stories reported by journalists because stories of events are usually arranged to suit their sponsors. Usually, the stories “add nothing tangible to the quality of life of the people” and “there is nothing journalistically newsworthy about them” (Oso, 2012).
As Kenneth and Odorume (2015) put it, “the broadcast media organizations should exist to serve public interest. However, recent journalism practice in Nigeria seems to be plagued with the malady of news commercialization. What this portends is that only the rich will get their ideas communicated to the public thus relegating the common to the background. Media organizations are undeniably expected to protect the public interest of their audiences.” 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 focus on TV Continental.
- Research Objectives
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.
- 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?
1.5 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.
1.6 Scope of the study
The study is limited to the staffs of TV Continental. It will also cover the relationship between news commercialization and news credibility in TV Continental.
TVC News is Nigerian news 24 hour television news channel based in Lagos. The channel airs on British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc (BSKYb) in the UK, Naspers Ltd. (NPN)’s DStv and Startimes in Nigeria, and Multi TV in Ghana. Former CEO Nigel Parsons stated “Without shying away from reporting the conflicts or the corruption, the famines or the wars, the mission of TVC News is also to tell the many positive stories coming out of Africa. Stories – good or bad – will be told ‘through African eyes’.”
The network aired its first public broadcasting run on February 28, 2013. It began airing in the UK on BSkyB on June 17, 2013. In its first few months the network's staffs has received awards from the Association for International Broadcasting (AIB) and the International Centre for Journalists based out of Washington, D.C. As of 2014 the station is said to have reached about five million households in Africa and Europe with interest from cable and satellite providers to expand its market share.
1.7 Definition of Key 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.
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