Appraising The Effect Of Commercial News On Journalism Profession In Nigeria (A Case Study Of NTA Ile-Ife And Orisun F.M Ile-Ife)

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Appraising The Effect Of Commercial News On Journalism Profession In Nigeria (A Case Study Of NTA Ile-Ife And Orisun F.M Ile-Ife)


Abstract


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 see Ekwo (1996) and Ogbuoshi (2005). 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 (Oso, 2000). Majority of the respondent admitted that media houses kills hard news to accommodate commercial stories.

The situation has led to a lot of compromise, with sensationalisation of news stories and half-truths reaching alarming stage. Citing an instance with the Daily Times, a one time leading newspaper in Nigeria, Idowu (2001:15) noted the situation became so bad that: This commercialization at the institutional level is thriving because editors, publishers and owners of the broadcast stations/ print media see the organizations, or 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 reports.

Hanson (2005: 140) is right when he notes that: “reporters and editors are supposed to be concerned not with profits but rather with reporting the news as best they can. But that barrier is coming down, and editors are increasingly looking at their newspaper as a product that should appeal to advertisers as well as readers.

Therefore, the research work appraised the effect of commercial news on journalism profession in Nigeria” (A case study of NTA Ile-Ife and Orisun F.M Ile-Ife). The researcher adopted survey research method in eliciting data from the selected respondents.


Chapter One


1.0 Introduction

1.1 Background Of The Study

Commercialization of news began in Nigerian media houses as the result of the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) introduced in 1986 and the eventual withdrawal of subsidies from government owned media houses (see Ekwo 1996, Ogbuoshi 2005). 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 (Oso, 2000). The situation has led to a lot of compromise, with sensationalisation of news stories and half-truths reaching alarming stage. Citing an instance with the Daily Times, a one time leading newspaper in Nigeria, Idowu (2001:15) noted the situation became so bad that:

The workers threatened not to board the company’s staff buses unless the company’s name was wiped off from the buses. Even the company’s cars were no longer branded. It was meant to be a precautionary measure to save the staff and the company’s vehicles from being attacked by an irate public which could not reconcile itself to the half truths being published in the Times. The company heeded the worker’s call.

Just as the organisation is subjected to economic pressure and tries all means not to sink, so too are individual journalists. The greatest problem besetting Nigerian journalists is that of poverty which scholars agree need to be addressed if the ethical professional standards are to be maintained Rather than do so, however, the current practices in most media organisations in Nigeria seem to be encouraging unethical practices. Publishers in Nigeria, rather than pay attractive wages to the journalists, refer to their identity cards as a meal ticket. In other words, the journalists are encouraged to make money on their own in whatever manner they deem fit, thus encouraging the popular brown envelope syndrome within journalism parlance in Nigeria.

In some media organisations reporters are officially made to function as marketing officers in addition to main reportorial duties. “For instance, those in charge of specialised pages or columns are made to source for adverts or supplements to support `their’ pages or the pages are dropped and probably with the reporter. In broadcasting, producers are asked to scout for sponsors for `their’ programmes with a promise of commission” (Oso 2000: 30)
Journalism practice wields such enormous powers and calls for the highest standards of ethics and commitment to truth. Ethics and truth in journalism have assumed global concern as scholars recognize that their basic constituents of objectivity, accuracy, fairness and balance have merely assumed mythical qualities as journalists battle to assign credibility to their news stories. Tuchman (1978: 2) describes objectivity as `facticity’ (a mechanism which allows the journalists to hide even from themselves the `constructed’ and `partial’ nature of their stories).

This view seems to have garnered force as increasingly scholars suggest that news even when professionally `selected’ is guided more by organizational needs than by professionalism. The journalist thus becomes `a walking paradox’ (Nordenstreng 1995) as one cannot fail to see that journalism is so full of contradictions that “we have to question even the most fundamental dogma of the profession – truth seeking – because the way it has been conceived and practiced in journalism serves as a deceptive filtering device preventing as much as helping the truth being discovered” (Nordenstreng 1995:117). News commercialization practice in Nigeria media industries adds to this contradiction and deception, creating a continuous dilemma for ethics and objectivity in journalism practice in Nigeria.


1.2 Statement Of The Problem

Commercialization of news has really affected journalism profession in many ways. This has been a problem to journalist in recent times in the discharge of their duties. This studies has also come to investigate or outlined some of the problems, which includes:

Commercialization of news violates the ethics and code of conduct of journalists, which states: it is the duty of the journalist to refuse any reward for publishing or suppressing news or comment.

News commercialization has affected information flow tremendously. As the majority of news is paid for, therefore, the news that sees the light of the day has to be induced by somebody or an organization, while those news that are genuine and authoritative are dropped because there is no inducement where such news emanates from. The greatest flaw in the practice of news commercialization as Ekwo (1996) surmises is that “news is narrowly defined against the weight of the news source’s purse” (p. 69).

News commercialization can lead to news distortion. The person who pays the piper often dictates the tune. Since the media would not like to lose a major customer, they will do all within their reach to satisfy such client that pays them enough money to have to his/her view projected. In return, the client may dictate how and what he or she wants out of the news packaging of the media house. This can extend to dictating to the media what makes news, thereby emasculating opposing views. This is often flagrantly displayed during election times as contestants often buy over one media house or the other, which at every news hour seize the opportunity to praise the `client’ and crush his/her opponents.

With the zeal to acquire more and more money through commercialization of news, many news organizations have lost their focus on investigative journalism. This has led to loss of variety in the news, monotony, etc. Many have lost their mission turning to praise singing and propaganda, which has dire consequences for the Nigerian society (see Ekwo 1996, Lai 2000, Ogbuoshi 2005).

Finally, The journalist thus becomes `a walking paradox’ (Nordenstreng 1995) as one cannot fail to see that journalism is so full of contradictions that “we have to question even the most fundamental dogma of the profession

– truth seeking – because the way it has been conceived and practiced in journalism serves as a deceptive filtering device preventing as much as helping the truth being discovered” (Nordenstreng 1995:117). News commercialization practice in Nigeria media industries adds to this contradiction and deception, creating a continuous dilemma for ethics and objectivity in journalism practice in Nigeria.


1.3 Objectives Of The Study

The main purpose of this research is based on the following;

  1. To appraise the effect of commercial news on journalism profession.
  2. To identify the various challenges posed by commercials to journalist.
  3. To determine the influence of technological advancement on broadcast media station with special reference to commercials.
  4. To recommend an appropriate commercial scheme for goods to be made known using the broadcast media station.
  5. To determine the degree of stoicism towards news commercialization in the Nigerian news scene.

1.4 Research Questions

In an attempt to carry out this research work on “the effect of commercial news on journalist profession in Nigeria”, the following research questions were raised to help the investigation.

  1. Does commercial play important role in broadcasting?
  2. Of what significance are commercials in journalism profession?
  3. To what extent can broadcasting media or journalist survive without commercial?
  4. To what extent does geographical location of a broadcast media stations determine the increase in number of commercials and advertisers?
  5. Does commercial price of broadcast station determine advertisers’ choice of media?
  6. To what extent does commercials effects journalism profession in Nigeria?

1.5 Significance Of The Study

This research work will enable journalists, mass communicants, newscasters, news editors and stakeholders to know the place of commercials in a broadcast media station in a computer age.

The research will serve as a useful guide to future researcher who will like to further the study on “the appraisal of the effect of commercial news on journalism professions in Nigeria or in any related topics. It will also add to an existing literature.


1.6 Scope And Limitation Of The Study

Scope

The effect of commercial news on journalism profession varies from a journalist to journalist and from media house to media house. This implies that it is practically impossible for the study to discuss all the effects of commercial news on journalism profession in Nigeria of all journalist and media houses.

Consequently, this study is limited to the appraisal of the effect of commercial news on journalism profession with a reference to NTA & Orisum FM in ile-ife.

Limitations Of The Study

This study was faced with series of constraints in the course of writing it. Prominent among the constraints are time spent in visiting the case study areas and time spent in compiling my findings.

Secondly, the finance in carrying out this activity was a big problem. Obtaining relevant data information was another limiting factor as almost all the required information obtained was sufficient. Even in situation where interviews were necessary, there was difficult in scheduling while some qualified personnel are either busy or ignorant over such interview.


1.7 Operational Definition of Terms

The following terms operationally defined in the course of this study to increase the understanding of people who may want to use them.

Commercials:

This refers to advertising, paid classified messages in newspapers, magazines, flyers, billboards and paid announcement over a radio or television to sell a product.

Commercial Broadcasting:

This is the broadcasting of television and radio programming by privately owned corporate media.

Broadcast Media:

This covers a wide spectrum of different communication methods such as television and radio.

Advertisement:

The creation of awareness about a product.

Broadcasting:

Broadcasting is the distribution of audio and video content to a disposed audience via any audio or visual means.


Chapter Five


5.0 Summary Of Findings, Conclusion And Recommendations

5.1 Introduction

This chapter discusses the summary of findings in the research, the conclusion and various recommendations made on the effect of commercial news on journalism profession in Nigeria.


5.2 Summary Of Findings

This article discusses the effect of commercial news on journalism profession in Nigeria. It further elaborates the degree of stoicism towards news commercialization in the Nigerian news scene. It identifies the various challenges posed by commercials to journalist. It also determines the influence of technological advancement on broadcast media station with special reference to commercials. This commercialization at the institutional level is thriving because editors, publishers and owners of the broadcast stations/ print media see the organizations, or 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 reports

From the analysis of the findings and statistical test result, it was deducted that commercial news has significant impact on journalism profession and also impact of media house profit orientation. That is to say that for any media house to continuously achieve its profit goals, it should manage its commercials properly.


5.4 Conclusion

The issue of news commercialization cannot be discussed without recourse to the views currently gathering momentum that news be seen as a construction. This is because as argued:

There seem to be no such person as the `individual’ communicator. She or he has to cooperate with colleagues, has to take the specific needs, routines and traditions of the organisations into account, and is limited by the social, economic and legal embedding of the media institution (van Zoonen 1994: 49).

But would these considerations be at the expense of ethics, in other words, “the shared normative values which any society holds dear, and are used to judge the behaviour or performance of any member of that society?” (Omole: 2000). How Nigerian media institutions and journalists are to be judged depends upon how much they are seen as credible before the eyes of the public. As a British journalist once said, “credibility in the minds of the audience is the sine qua non of news” (Smith, quoted in Glasgow Media Group 1976:7). News commercialization leads to loss of credibility. Today many enlightened Nigerians drift away from the local television news stations as they seek other credible sources for news.

No matter the constraints within which the journalism profession is practised, societies should have the right to reserve spaces free of commercialization, where citizens can congregate or exchange ideas on equal footing, and where those with money do not necessarily speak with the loudest voice. The news space could be just that, but that cannot be without an allegiance to ethics of journalism profession. Ethics cannot continue to be “an unwanted child of business”.


5.5 Recommendations

From the findings of the research work, the following recommendations are made:

  1. There should be thorough regulation of commercial news in Nigeria by the agency concerned.
  2. Strict sanctions or total closure of media house by the authorities should be enforced to those media houses who abandoned hard news to commercials.
  3. Increasing commercial-oriented news stories taking the place of hard news reports should be minimized by media houses.
  4. Journalism should adhere to the ethics of their work instead of sticking always to financial gains out of their job.
  5. Government and media houses owners should reveal their salary structures and incentives to journalist.

Appraising The Effect Of Commercial News On Journalism Profession In Nigeria (A Case Study Of NTA Ile-Ife And Orisun F.M Ile-Ife)


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