ABSTRACT: The research examined the effects of news commercialization on the contents of private media with a focus on People’s FM, Royal FM and Ray Power FM. 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. 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. The situation has led to a lot of compromises, with sensationalization of news stories and half-truths reaching the alarming stage. 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. 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 media as a product that should appeal to advertisers as well as viewers. Survey research method was adopted and 180 copies of questionnaires were administered to the respondents that were drawn through Yard Formula of 1971. It is recommended that if commercialization should continue there should be a minimum any broadcast house should be used daily.
Keywords: NEWS COMMERCIALIZATION
1.1 Background to the Study
One of the hottest chapters in the history of broadcast media is the news commercialization which became a norm in broadcast media in 1986, corporate or institutional news commercialization came into limelight in Nigeria following the introduction of the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), by the government of General Ibrahim Babangida in 1986 (Israel and Akutus, 2013).
It should be noted that journalism in different countries of the world remained more of a social service affair in which public interest is of primary importance. This allows the publics’ voice to be heard especially on matters of national interest (Agbamu, 2011). The views are heard not based on a price or individual interest, but based on the news merit especially if they meet the criteria for news judgement. Unfortunately, those days are gone. Nowadays, especially in an effort to sustain production, this public interest role is diminishing gradually paving way for a situation where news coverage or access to the media depends on how much one can puff out or even commercial stories are now presented as news or news analysis.
The policy was a clarion call on both individuals and organizations to imbibe the spirit of self-reliance and reduce dependence on government if they are to survive the prevailing unfriendly economy. Broadcast media houses in Nigeria because of their dual mandate were among the first victim of the SAP policy. For instance, the federal government funding of Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) fell from N69 million in 1981 to N29 million in 1987 (Agbamu, 2011). With dwindling revenue, it became clear that some of the media houses will close shop if they maintain status quo and operate purely in the public interest. They looked for survival strategies. One of them is news commercialization.
Commercialization of news in Nigeria comes in two different forms. The first is institutional or corporate commercialization while the second is individual commercialization. At the corporate level, official charges are placed on news items while at the individual level, reporters in different guises collect money or any other form of inducement before they report issues or event. The latter is what is refers to as ‘Brown Envelope’. The difference between the two is that while the money collected in the formal goes into the organization coffer, in the later, it ends up in the pocket of the media practitioners.
However, day by day, the management and operations of mass media especially broadcast media takes a different approach especially in this 21st century and requires the broadcast media manager to adapt to this dynamism in a careful ways, if they really want to survive and still gain the control of audience.
The nature of the broadcast media job in the society as watchdogs, mobilizers, gatekeepers and agenda setters demand broadcast media to be independent so as to be able to ethically and legally discharge its constitutional duties especially as stated in the chapter 2, section 22 of the Nigeria 1999 constitution as amended. But the big question is how would the broadcast media source for all it needs to survive, equipment, hire qualified staffs and other logistics that the job demand especially now that the subvention from the government is no longer enough, talk less of the private media that wear privatization and business garment from the outset like every other commercial business.
In the broadcast media, the quest for financial independence is not always easy. Often, financial pressures push news organizations towards rescuers who assure their solvency but exert a heavy price in terms of their independence. Financially weak media in fragile democracies are particularly vulnerable to absorption by a narrow set of political or economic interest that inclined to operate the news organizations not as self-sustaining businesses, but as propaganda units.
Ogbuoshi (2005) states that worsening economic pressures often push mews organization to seek a safe habour which can means turning to politicians or special interests for support. They do this, however, at the expense of their editorial independence, because the rescuers, rather than investing in the long term profitability of the news concerns, look for the short-term gains of owning a propaganda arm that they can command into advancing their political or economic interests.
Also, advertisers capitalize on the difficult economic situation to inject their influence in the newsroom, a situation that lightens the birders between advertisement and news. Alawode (2011) laments that as a result, “the line between advertising and news becomes less clear every day”.
Since the past three decades, the Nigeria economic situation has been on the downward swing, and, both the government and individuals have come up with different survival strategies. Among are the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) and other economy policies which encourage people and business to ‘tighten their belts’ as a strategy for survival. The mass media are not left out in the battle for survival. They are faced with the challenge of either how to break-even, sustain their performance while remaining free from external influence and socially responsible to the society. This has been an uphill task as the difficult economic realities continue to bite harder. The effect is here with us; poor service delivery, poor wages/saleries and the attendant cyclical effect.
According to Udoakah and Nwabueze (2007), following the difficulty in getting operational fund… some media houses hardly pay transport fare or sundry allowances to their reporters. This affects investigation of stories since money to fund investigation of stories which may require lots of travelling. Moreover, a journalist whose salary is owned for months will lack the motivation to go into adventurous investigating reporting. It is against this backdrop that the research investigates the effects of news commercialization on the contents of private media with a specific focus on People’s FM, Royal FM and Ray Power FM.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Critics have identified distortion of news, imbalanced report and the growing tendency for the public not to believe the media news (lack of objectivity) as major problems inherent in for news and other information as a result of using some news that are sponsored. Objectivity as an ethical standard is one of the most pervasive in all of journalism which commercialization of news on the contents of news media in Nigeria is seems to be crippling, thus affecting the professionalism and public acceptance.
Although, lots of studies have been conducted on news commercialization and brown envelope in Nigeria but the increasing reliance on such source as part of the major sources of funding in a media outfit is the concern of this study while the influence on both professionalism and media management. Hence, the research is geared towards examining the effects of news commercialization on the contents of private media with a specific focus on People’s FM, Royal FM and Ray Power FM.
1.3 Objectives of the study
- To examine the extent which People’s FM, Royal FM and Ray Power FM. engages in news commercialization.
- To highlight factor(s) responsible for news commercialization in People’s FM, Royal FM and Ray Power FM.
1.4 Research questions
- To what extent you are aware of news commercialization in your media organization?
- What factor(s) responsible for news commercialization in People’s FM, Royal FM and Ray Power FM?
1.5 Significance of the study
- The significance of this study aims at revealing to the media practitioners and broadcast students, the effect of commercialization on the media credibility and professionalism.
- The study will help media practitioners and managers to know the havoc of news commercialization on the future of the media outfits in term of credibility and trust on the part of audience which may make them less credible.
- Media professional bodies should see reasons to be more serious in maintaining ethics in the media industry by sanctioning defaulting journalists to ensure that journalism practitioners adhere to laid down codes of practice, sound education and professional training of journalists.
- It will enable the general public to know that some of the news they listening and watched are paid for and become sensitive to media messages.
1.6 Scope of the study
The study which examines the effects of news commercialization on the contents of private media shall be narrowed in scope to journalists in People’s FM, Royal FM and Ray Power FM. Thus, the geographical scope of this study was Bayelsa state. The rationale for selecting journalists in People’s FM, Royal FM and Ray Power FM is due to its proximity to the researcher while inadequate time to study all broadcast media organizations in Bayelsa state which is very difficult if not impossible. Also, the demographic factors of the respondents will carefully study before the administration of research instruments such demographic factors include: age, gender, academic level e.t.c.
1.7 Operational Definition of Terms
Effects: This refer to the influence, impact or contribution of the news commercialization no broadcast media overall credibility.
News Commercialization: This has to do with a situation when a broadcast media report as news or news analysis a commercial message by an unidentified or unidentifiable sponsor.
Contents: Broadcasting contents in this regard means news.
Private Media: These are broadcast media that are owned, financed and controlled by an individual or group of individuals such as People’s FM, Royal FM and Ray Power FM.
EFFECTS OF NEWS COMMERCIALIZATION ON THE CONTENTS OF PRIVATE MEDIA
WHAT TO EXPECT: (Chapter 1-5, Abstract, Table of Contents, Questionnaire and References)