The Influence Of The Mass Media On Government Policies (A Case Study Of The Anti Gay Law In Nigeria)

Project and Seminar Material for Mass Communication

The Influence Of The Mass Media On Government Policies (A Case Study Of The Anti Gay Law In Nigeria)


This research work evaluates the influence as well as the pressure of the mass media on government policies in Nigeria. Using the recently signed anti gay law by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as a case study. The research also reviewed the ways in which the mass media serve a number of functions within the context of government policy making. For instance, when Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria’s president, signed the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act into law, there was no public report of the new law until journalists obtained a copy of the act. The media has sometimes been described as the occupying “fourth estate of the real”. This work therefore ascertains the extent the media can go at influencing government policies to meet with public expectation.

To do this, the researcher gave structural analysis of the meaning of mass media; and then looked at the relationship between the mass media and government policy. The work also examined how the mass media controls government policy within the context of the new anti gay law in Nigeria. It also carefully looked at the mass media as an instrument of check and balance to government policies and decision making processes.

Chapter One


1.1 Background of the Study

Policymaking is a political process which is affected by various social and economic factors and the media plays an integral role in shaping the social context in which policies are developed. Through the media, citizens learn how government policies will affect them, and governments gain feedback on their policies and programs. The media acts as the primary conduit between those who want to influence policy and policymakers controlling the scope of political discourse and regulating the flow of information. Policymaking follows an orderly sequence where problems are identified, solutions devised, policies adopted, implemented and lastly evaluated. In reality, the policy process is more fluid, where policies are formed through the struggle of ideas of various advocacy coalitions. The policies, on which the media focuses can, and often does, play an important role in determining the focal issues for policymakers.

Gay is a term that primarily refers to a homosexual person or the trait of being homosexual and lesbianism. The term was originally used to refer to feelings of being “carefree”, “happy”, or “bright and showy”. The term’s use as a reference to homosexuality may date as early as the late 19th century, but its use gradually increased in the 20th century. In modern English, gay has come to be used as an adjective, and as a noun, referring to the people, especially to gay males, and the practices and cultures associated with homosexuality. Wikipedia (2013).

However, the law that criminalized the act of gay, (homosexual/ lesbians) marriage in Nigeria is called Anti Gay Law or Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act.

The Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act criminalizes same-sex marriage and provides for up to 14 years in jail. Membership or support of gay organizations, associations or clubs carries a penalty of up to 10 years’ imprisonment.

The new law reflects a highly religious and conservative society that largely considers homosexuality a deviation. In areas of northern Nigeria law is enforced by Islamic Shariah courts and homosexuals can be stoned to death.

There is a rapidly growing literature on the economics of the mass media, leading to a series of important new insights in an area which for a long time was neglected by economists (McCluskey and Swinnen, 2008).

Media economics represent economic theoretical and practical economic questions specific to media of all types. Of particular concern to media economics are the economic polices and practices of media companies and disciples including journalism and the news industry, film production, entertainment programs, print, broadcast, mobile communications, Internet, advertising and public relations.

An important part of this literature concerns the role of the mass media in political markets and its effect on public policy-making. Most of this literature on the relationship between mass media and government policy is theoretical. A few studies have tried to assess the effect of media on policy outcomes.

Access to mass-media empowers people politically and, as such, increases their benefit from government programs (Stromberg and Snyder, 2008). This influence has been found for different types of government programs and different countries, such as unemployment relief in the United States (Stromberg, 2004), public food provision and calamity relief in India (Besley and Burgess, 2001, 2002), and educational spending in Uganda.

All of these studies measure the effect within a single country, which has the benefit of keeping many other factors fixed but has the potential disadvantage of having limited variation in policy and media.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Sometimes initiating a policy may be very easy but its implementation turns out to be very difficult. The anti gay law in Nigeria is still being criticized by some of our leaders.

Media coverage actually has limited consequences for actual policy decisions even when policy agenda and political discussions are affected by the media. The media is important for understanding the political agenda and the framing of decisions about special or sensational issues, but normal politics and the broader policy priorities or governmental issues are largely unaffected. This turns out to be a serious problem in evaluating the impact of the media on government policy.

Media influence is strongest with sensational issues, and weakest in governmental policy issues, which are predominantly policy-driven.

1.3 Objectives of the Study

  1. To examine the influence of the mass media on government policy
  2. To examine the extent of Western influence on policy making process in third world counties via the media.
  3. The examine the impact the mass media has on government policy
  4. To examine the challenges facing the media in reporting government newly enacted policy like the anti gay policy in Nigeria
  5. To analysis the functions the mass media in reporting government policy

1.4 Research Questions

  1. Does mass media have direct influence on government policy?
  2. Does the mass media contribute to government policy making?
  3. Does the mass media have any impact on government policy?
  4. Does the mass media face any challenge in reporting newly enacted policy such as anti gay law policy?
  5. Does the mass media perform the function of reporting government policy?

1.5 Significance of the Study

In its development and implementation, policy goes through a number of stages. At each stage, the mass media perform functions, although the functions seem more important in relaying information than in influencing the policy process. Thus, this research will be useful to both students and researchers as it gives detail explanation of the role of mass media on government policy.

1.6 Scope of the Study

Although, the basic objective of the project is to examine the impact and the influence of the mass media on government policy in Nigeria, this can not be effectively examined without considering the direct influence of the mass media on a particular government policy such as the anti gay law policy in Nigeria. Scope of the study therefore revolves rounds the position, duty, influence as well as functions of the mass media on government policy within the context of anti gay law in Nigeria.

1.7 Limitations of the Study

During the research study, the researcher encountered some many problems, some of which are explained as follows:


Time constraint has posed a lot of limitations to this work as it took me a lot of time to gather enough literature materials while it was stressful to conduct the research.


Inadequate finance for this project is another hindrance: there was no enough money to browse the internet extensively for the needed materials.


At present there was little literature materials available for this work as researchers were not really focus on this aspect.

1.8 Definition of Terms


Gay is a term that primarily refers to a homosexual person or the trait of being homosexual. The term’s use as a reference to homosexuality may date as early as the late 19th century, but its use gradually increased in the 20th century.


Homosexuality is romantic attraction, sexual attraction or sexual behavior between members of the same sex or gender.


A lesbian is a female who expresses romantic or sexual attraction to other females, whether primarily or exclusively, or a female who self-identifies as lesbian.

Chapter Five

Summary, Conclusion and Recommendation

5.1 Summary

Mass media often do play a critical role in policy making. The typical view of media is that they matter in the early stages of the policy process — that media can help to set an agenda, which is then adopted and dealt with by politicians, policymakers, and other actors. The impact of media is rarely so constrained, however. Our argument here, in short, is that media matter, not just at the beginning but throughout the policy process.

Many of the standard accounts of policymaking have a much too narrow view of the timing of media effects. That said, the ways in which mass media can matter are relatively well understood. Existing work tells us that media can draw and sustain public attention to particular issues. They can change the discourse around a policy debate by framing or defining an issue using dialogue or rhetoric to persuade or dissuade the public. Media can establish the nature, sources, and consequences of policy issues in ways that fundamentally change not just the attention paid to those issues, but the different types of policy solutions sought.

Media can draw attention to the players involved in the policy process and can aid, abet or hinder their cause by highlighting their role in policymaking. Media can also act as a critical conduit between governments and publics, informing publics about government actions and policies, and helping to convey public attitudes to government officials.

5.2 Conclusion

In conclusion, the research work has been able to find the following findings:

The mass media have direct influence on government policy in Nigeria. The government policy does not affect the media practice in Nigeria negatively.

The media plays an integral role in shaping the social context in which policies are developed. The media has helped in the implementation of the Anti Gay policy in Nigeria.

There is little doubt that mass media play an important role in policymaking. A growing body of literature highlights this role, both in terms of issue attentiveness and policy framing. We have argued here, however, that it is important to note, first, that media matter not just at the beginning but throughout the policy process, and second, that media’s involvement in the policy process poses some real difficulties. In short, the complexities of policy making are likely not well-served by well-known tendencies in media coverage. That media matter to policymaking seems beyond a doubt. Whether their contribution tends to be positive on balance is, however, up for discussion.

5.3 Recommendation

The media acts as a powerful political actor, with its interests strongly tied to the status quo and that of other corporate policy actors, instead of the general public.

The press should be empowered in such a way that they can check mate the activities of the government and their policies. Because without the press, openness and accountability are impossible in contemporary democracies.

Again, the media should be given freedom which is known as Press Freedom. This is because Politicians and political operatives can simulate the political virtues of transparency through rhetorical and media manipulation.

The first kind of transparency is informational transparency; which is knowledge about government and decisions and access to government information which could affect the society positively. Another form of transparency is participatory transparency, which is the ability to participate in political decisions either through fair representation or direct participation.

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