Audience Perception Of Rivers State Radio Local News Programme As A Tool For Rural Development
The primary aim of the research was to examine audience perception of Rivers State radio local news programme on Gokana local government. People as a communication being always anxious to get date news on local, state, national and international. In fact, news is the reason why many buy radio or listen to radio activities just because everyone wants to be informed, educated and enlightened which can easily be achieved via news programme. Survey research method was adopted and 400 copies of questionnaires were printed and distributed to 400 respondents selected through Taro Yemane sampling method formula and 374 copies were returned for analysis. Also, the research use frequency and percentage method coupled with tables. In other words, it is highly necessary for radio station to carry out a critical research on its audience which will enable them to know the type of programmes its audience will prefer and enjoy particularly the news types. Also, more local news stations should be established to take care of rural needs and gratifications in terms of news and other current affairs.
The term broadcasting is amenable to equivocations and ambiguities. For purposes of clarity, broadcasting has been operationalised in this text from three all encompassing perspectives.
From the communication perspective, as contained in the communication Act of 1934, broadcasting means “the dissemination of radio and television signals intended to be received simultaneously by the public directly or by an intermediary such as relay stations”. On the other hand, it could also be defined from an engineering perspective as the encoding of information into a given channel of communication system in the electromagnetic spectrum by modulating the energy either through AM or FM. It could also be seen as the super imposition of audio/video electrical energy on to the side bands of much high frequency radio carrier waves.
Commonsensically, broadcasting means approximately the physical scattering of information or messages intended to be received by an audience.
An analysis of the mass media messages and the audience will show that there are social interactions and functions which occurred among them in a nexus of mediating factor, Klapper (1978) mass communication changes within the broad social system called society. It is as a result of this fact that societies, structures, institutions, values and attitudes undergo continuous changes to catch up with modernity and what it has to offer. As a result, individual members of the audience identify, exploit, maintain and sustain functional communication channels to serve as a means and agent for surveillance, cultural transmission, agenda setting, cognition and opinion leadership.
1.1 Background to the Study
The broadcast industry, which consists of radio and television like their print counterparts has many functions to carry out in the society. Harold Lasswell, a communication scholar identified some as, surveillance of the environment, correlation of the different parts of the society and transmission of cultural heritage from one generation to the other.
Furthermore, McQuail et al (1992) dove tailed the role of the media within the framework of “individual functionalism”.
Many years ago, there was no competition on the part of broadcast stations about their market (audience). This was due to the monopoly of the broadcast industries then by government stations. But since the granting of license to private broadcasting stations, there has been proliferation of broadcast stations in Nigeria and Rivers State in particular. In Port Harcourt city alone, there are about seven radio stations viz: Radio Rivers 99.1FM, Ray Power 106.5 FM, Rhythm 93.7 FM, Family Love Station 97.5FM, Garden City Radio, Cool FM and Wazobia are here too. The proliferation made the audience the “chief” and broadcasters the “subject”.
Apparently, the programmes department of the stations went to “war” of winning the market (audience) in order to lure advertisers to the station which is the revenue base of the stations.
News commentary must have come as a sequel to the aforementioned. Commentary is derived from a Latin word “commentarium” which means a notebook or explanation. It also means a comment, remark or critiqued note.
In his book, “Radio Journalism”, Mikhail Minkor says commentary means “review and explanation of public and political facts and events, its strength is contained in a competent, correct selection and interposing of the facts” with critical assessment of events which guides the listeners’ reaction and works upon their minds along certain lines. Gelsthorpe (2002) sees commentary as:
An elevated form of communication which deals on topical issues concerning society, silently demanding a positive change in one sector or another. This is why it is said to be the voice of the station.
Radio Rivers 99.1FM Port Harcourt, airs a commentary everyday at the end of the news broadcast at 6am in the morning called “the news at dawn” and at the end of theirnews bulletin by 6pm called “the globe at six”. Their commentary goes a long way in helping the audience to understand an issue of public importance. For instance, it was in one of their news commentaries that the people where educated/wised up on the intention of the State Government to ban the use of commercial motorcycle in Port Harcourt. Even the demolition exercise was also commented about by the station.
The fulcrum of this work is therefore to evaluate and determine audience assessment of news commentary on Radio Rivers 99.1FM while Port Harcourt city shall be the peripheral domain of this research.
The researcher will strive to know how the people of Port Harcourt perceive news commentary, if the programme serves them the functions of mass media as enumerated in the opening paragraphs of this work. In all, people will be tested to know if they like or loathe the programme.
1.1.1 Brief History of Radio Rivers 99.1 FM Port Harcourt
Radio Rivers is a wholly government owned radio station. It is own by the Rivers State Government. The instrument that brought the station is the “Rivers State of Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation Edit No 11 of 1971.
Radio Rivers was established to aid Rivers State Government have a medium of mass communication that would guard against unlawful infringement of the liberties and rights of the individuals.
The station has the following departments viz:
- News and current affairs
- Security and
The station’s major raw material is the ‘newscast’. The station is funded by the State Government through grants etc. and internally generated revenue. This is generated through advertisement, commercial job.
The advertisement rate is determined by area of coverage (listenership). But the station has made an effort to attract advertisers through the reduction of low advertisement rate, sending out of advertisement personnel etc.
The vision of the station is to operate as a fully commercial outfit and to inform the people on government policies.
Some of the general managers that have been in the station are: Ekiye Morris, Mr. Omodu Morgan, Tadore M. etc.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The proliferation of radio stations in Port Harcourt has placed radio station managers on the alert and this call for the production of good programmes. In order to ascertain the place of news commentary, (i.e.) if it is in the locus of good programme or the other way, is the reason the researcher carried out this study.
Therefore, the basis for this study was to find out how much time the audience in Port Harcourt city spend listening to Radio Rivers 99.1FM.
The introduction of news commentary has been hailed by many where as, others counter such. The supporters of news commentaries believe that commentaries aid them to understand the important issues and also make them know how the station perceives such issues.
Whichever way one looks at it, one thing seems obvious: news commentary has an effect on the understanding level of the audience on crucial and controversial issues. However, the extent and direction of this effect is yet to be empirically determined. For it is difficult to determine the extent to which these commentaries affect the understanding of crucial news items.
There will also be an examination of the audience, so as to know what the audience want and derive during news casting. What use is the programme to them? These are some of the questions to which this study seeks to proffer answers.
1.3 Objective of the Study
The following are the objectives of this study:
- To determine whether radio has been making positive impact in the development of Gokana local government.
- To examine the challenges of radio in rural development.
- To find out the main contributions of radio in the development of the rural areas of Gokana local government.
- To find out possible adjustments in the editorial policies of the radio stations to help promote development in Gokana local government..
1.4 Research Questions
As a basis upon which this study is conducted the following research questions are relevant:
- Does the community participate in the production of the radio development programmes?
- Can radio help in improving the lives of the people in Gokana local government?
- Has communication through radio made positive impact towards the development of the Gokana local government?
- Can sound radio information make Gokana local government area development plans to fully excel?
1.5 Significance of the Study
This study when completed will be beneficial to Radio Rivers and advertisers cum production/manufacturing companies.
Radio Rivers 99.1FM will be able to know how effective a news commentary is and will adjust where necessary.
More so, this study will give the advertisers the opportunity to assess the audience of Radio Rivers 99.1FM and thus, lead to effective advertising.
Finally, the study would be useful to people wishing to carry out research on similar topics.
1.6 Theoretical Framework
The mass communication theory that is best for this study is the uses and gratification theory.
The theory was propounded by Katz in 1970 and it is concerned with how people use media for the gratification of their needs. It believes that people choose what they want tosee or read and the different media compete to satisfy each individual’s need.
In this theory, the audience perceive same news item in a different ways because of the audience member believe, custom and ideology. It is individual perception, retention etc that shows what the audience make of a news item.
1.7 Limitations of the Study
The constraints of this study as in most academic research of this nature are time factor, financial constraints and finally, lack of literature.
1.8 Operational Definitions of Works
Some terms used here, require clarification as to their contextual meanings:
All the people who listen to Radio Rivers 99.1 FM.
An opinion or judgment of the audience about Radio Rivers.
The report of current ideas, events or situations that interest news consumers. It isthe timely account of an interesting event which the public must know because it is important as it helps them to live their lives meaningfully.
This is the review and explanation of public and political facts and events. Its strength is contained in a competent, correct selection and interposing of the facts.
This helps the listeners to understand news items deeply through the analysis of such news items or issues, thus, paving way for winning over public opinion on an event at a point in time. It can come inform of news analysis, news reports, news digest, and news commentary. This is the editorial of the air, it gives the voice of a radio station on an issue of importance.
Summary, Conclusion and Recommendation
5.1 Summary of the Findings
From the findings and analysis in the previous chapter, it is rational to confidently conclude that despite some weaknesses which call for adjustments, the radio stations are playing some significant roles in the promotion of development in the rural areas. From the data analysis, specific conclusions can be drawn that the radio stations have promoted development in the rural area of Gokana local government when 361(70.4%) indicated that communication through radio programmes has made positive impact towards the development of Gokana local government; as regards to research question three. By development we should not only think of agricultural, health or nutritional programmes. Even the fact that the radio stations have broadened the people’s horizon of access to information is in itself an aspect of development. The diversity of information channels in the different radio, brings with it different types of information sources to the rural people, almost free of charge. Therefore, it is good for people to be exposed to different kinds of information.
The closer radio and the opinion leaders are to the audience, the easier it is for the social and environmental needs of the masses to be considered during programme production and feedback – hence dialogical communication which is crucial for development. Some people go with their portable radio to the farm, offices, or even when riding bicycles from the villages to the town. This shows that the rural people, who cannot afford TV sets or newspapers, love to listen to their radio set. In this case, the more people have radio; the more the views and demands of the rural dwellers will be considered, as well as giving prominence to local content.
People must be in harmony with each other, and collectively work together for a common goal, rather than for selfish motives. Through radio, the rural dwellers have been able to stay in touch with political developments and government policies. The rural people now know their political rights much better than before and use them especially during election. They can now confidently challenge political leaders or public servants on policies or projects that seem to be inappropriate. Therefore the more people become aware of their democratic rights, the better their community will develop. These rights include participation in election of competent leaders, being able to criticise their leaders, detecting bad government policies, and demanding for political accountability and transparency from both the local and national leaders.
The use of different dialects, and local content generally, by the radio crew is another important element of development. Rural development itself was responsible for the rise of many radio stations. Without the necessary conditions to support the radio stations, they would not have the capacity they have today, let alone even springing up. The fact that the rural people are able to buy radio sets, and the fact that there is electricity, telephone networks, advertisers, among others, show that the rural areas have attained some level of ‘development’ to offer audience to the radio stations.
Of course there are some loopholes that make it impossible to give the radio crew an excellent pass in terms of rural development. For instance, 155(30.2%) indicated that radio is improving the lives of the people in Gokana local government, this shows that the radio stations operate, because of profit motives; they feed the audience with too much advertisement, music and DJ jokes. The other problem is that most of the people that take part in the political talk shows – either as guests or callers – are influential politicians, not the ordinary man or woman. But rather than condemn the radio stations for those weaknesses, they should be encouraged and directed on the right thing to do. Being private stations without government subsidies, they have to ‘sell’ advertisements in order to raise money to stay on air and pay their staff. They also have to respond to audience demand. For instance, most of what is broadcast is a result of ‘consumer taste’ from at least a section of the audience, if the audience do not want a particular programme, they (radio crew) would probably not produce such programme.
From the findings, it is clear that both the radio editors/reporters and the listeners have the different perceptions about the development role of radio. 350(68.23%) indicated that the dwellers in Gokana local government do not participate in the production of the radio development programmes, this is why good programmes are displaced by commercial advertisements, because the radio crew need money to sustain their operations. Perhaps this scenario could be avoided if the radio crew look for sponsorship of such programmes from donors interested in promoting certain causes. But on the whole, the radio crew, before now, have helped to promote and induce different forms of development in the rural area through the different types of development programmes mentioned earlier.
Although the degree of community participation is still low, one can say that the trend is encouraging. As more people become aware of their rights, and as “competition” between the radio stations becomes stiffer, they will probably offer more platform for community participation in order to tap more listeners, for their survival.
This study was embarked on in order to find out the role of radio in the development of Gokana local government. So far the researcher’s findings revealed that radio brought about the extent of development in Gokana local government area. And if the radio stations are better managed and reformed, they can facilitate development of the rural areas to a greater level. As a matter of fact, it is the conclusion of this study that radio is a powerful tool for rural development and equal development in the third world countries and Nigeria in particular.
In order to bring about even and equal development in the rural areas these measures should be taken care of so that the third world countries, Nigeria in particular would meet up with the developed countries. Because communication is vital in the process of development and is taken as the soul of the process(Okunna 2002:301). The measures are as follows:
a) Staff and Human Resource
- All the staff, especially radio managers, editors and reporters, should be given some form of training on some development journalism. It is important, that the more the media people get expertise skills on development journalism, the better they can perform in the rural areas and should be free from partisan politics.
- The government should come up with a ‘‘reasonable salary package’’ law to ensure that the radio crew get not less than a certain amount of wages/salaries.
The radio crew should find ways of encouraging more ordinary people and grassroots leaders to take part, either as guests or contributors, in the talk shows, phone-ins and other programmes. Today, the status quo of the people have changed from the state of being passive to the state of being active and also with the advent of technology and new trends in the mode of communication, therefore the people’s needs ‘‘entirely’’ should be taken into consideration by the radio crew.
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