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Attitude of Nigerians Towards the Role of Mass Media in Democracy

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Mass Media in Democracy

Election is considered to be a game of majority, the more majority the more the chance of winning election. One of the ways to attract many voters is through political communication otherwise known as political advertising campaigns; this takes different approaches and strategies. Political participation (election) is a process through which individuals or groups of citizens get involved in choosing their leaders to enhance an effective governance and societal welfare. The participation can come in form of voting, participation in political rally, contesting, partnership, political campaigns, social-mobilizer among others.           

Chudi-Oji (2013) posits that to embark on task of electing leaders, people must be mobilized in order to get enlightened via enlightenment campaigns, sensitization, information dissemination and advocacy programmes directed at community leaders, age grades, development associations, opinion leaders, artisans and other grassroots movements in order to increase their awareness and foster attitudinal change towards active involvement and participation in politics. All these communications are tagged political communication and are enhanced by the mass media especially several channels- radio, television, newspaper, magazine, social media, email, sms and so on.

In the past, political mobilization, education and participation were done mainly by word of mouth and later by newspaper, magazine, radio and television. From the colonial day’s election, to post independence polls and to the enthronement of democracy in 1999; mass media have been a major platform for political communication, political awareness and public mobilization in order to sustain democratic principles. However, advancement in this century has paved way for modern means of mass communication facilitated by the internet called new media or social media. This which has boosted and reshaped means of passing and creating political awareness, participation and reducing political apathy (Olayinka, 2018).

In politics, political campaign advertising is the use of an advertising campaign through the media to influence a political debate, discussion and ultimately voters. These adverts are designed by political consultants and political campaign team. Many countries restrict the use of broadcast media to broadcast political messaging. In the European Union, many countries do not permit paid-for TV or radio advertising for fear that wealthy groups will gain control of airtime, making fair play impossible and distorting the political debate in the process (Kaid and Christina,  2006).

Also, in both the United Kingdom and Ireland, paid advertisements are forbidden, though political parties are allowed a small number of party political broadcasts in the run up to election time. The United States has a very free market for broadcast political messaging. Canada allows paid-for political broadcasts but requires equitable access to the airwaves (Kaid and Christina,  2006). Goodman (2010) opines that democracy can neither be sustained, becomes strong without a free Press while Press Freedom can never be possible without democracy as the media takes the forms and colouration of the socio-political environment in which it operates according to the normative theorists Seibert (1956) in Anaeto, 2008).

Media must be credible and trustworthy, trust is the most valuable asset for any media, once lost it, cannot be earned back. It is for this reason that all media must uphold their principles to provide accurate and factual news and other programmes that can enhance free access to media of information for political news in order for the electorates to make an informed opines.

Jones (2001) notes that the press must understand the difference between politics in general and party politics. Media should not be a vehicle or used as an advocate for any political party or ideology. Political issues should be clearly understood, analyzed and presented in an impartial manner. During elections/political campaigns, equal time slots, space and right must be allocated to each of the legitimate political parties and candidates. In the course of election, messages that encourage goodwill and harmony among all the ethnic groups, religions, genders, cultures, languages and communities should be broadcast on and other media.

In the 2019 general election, All Progressive Congress, Peoples Democratic Party, and other political parties adopted different political advertising strategies to convince and persuade voters using various media available including billboard, radio, television, posters, newspapers, magazines, film, social media, email, website, blog and SMS in order to win voters. Other political platform adopted was the branded motors, vest, caps, hand band, for the purpose of creating awareness and remind electorates. It is against this background that the study examines the attitude of Nigerians to the role of media in the enthronement of democracy since 1999.

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