Keywords: OWNERSHIP OF BROADCASTING
ABSTRACT: The assertion of “he who pays the pipers dictates the tunes” agreed more with this paper because there is a lot of control and influence on Nigerian journalists and mass media in general. Media owners tend to dictate to journalists what they should and should not broadcast. It is believed that most of the government media journalists have been turned to their secretary and public relations while the government has also turned media to her extension of the ministry of information that cannot but support her activities dogmatically. It is therefore recommended that media owners should not allow the commercial interest to drive them from the media social responsibility expected of it in society. Media owners should allow employee to exercise professionalism in their day to day activities to boost and maintain the media objectivity and credibility because “medium is the mesaage” say McLuhan.
INTRODUCTION: Independent press cannot exist and that the news organs are agents of the people who exercise political and economic control. No matter the benevolence of the government, no matter the democratic principles of the society and no matter the advancement of any society, the mass media are usually subjected to some form of control from those who hold and operate the apparatus of power (Andrew, 2009) cited in (Altschull, 2008).
Similarly, there is a common saying with regards to media in general and broadcast media control in particular in Nigeria and elsewhere which has become a cliché, that “He who pays the piper dictates the tune”. This means that the owners of a mass media channel control what the medium broadcasts and how it broadcasts it. The history of broadcast media ownership in Nigeria can be traced to 1932 when started as part of an experiment by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Lagos as one of the centres around the world, to receive and retransmit British Empire service signals from Daventry, England. This relay system of the BBC was replicated in mainly English speaking countries across the globe and succeeded in taking BBC news and programmes to many parts of the world (Andrew, 2009).
The colonial monopolised the broadcast media and use it to propagate its policies, programmes and ideology on Nigeria soil without room for the nationalists to offer any contrary opinion even when occasion demanded. Also, Chief Obafemi Awolowo the then Premier of Western Region of Nigeria established the first television station in Nigeria and indeed Africa in 1959.
The birth of the Western Nigerian Television (WNTV) has been described as accidental in so far as Chief Awolowo embarked on it due to his inability to use the services of the Federal Radio station to reply to the broadcast of then Governor-General MacPherson over the constitutional matters of 1953 and since then regional broadcasting began and when states were created out of the existing regions state broadcast media were extended (Oyekanmi, 2008). The control through ownership is a fact of life in every society, but then the nature of this control usually varies greatly, depending upon the public system, the orientation of political leaders in control of state government, the political climates prevailing, the calibre of journalists and other professional communicators (Olayiwola, 2008).
The aim of the government to lord over the press is not peculiar to Nigeria alone but to all the third world countries. Galadima (2003) says “public officeholders believe they can do anything and get away with it as long as they can control media, or get a good journalist to do the dirty job of lying with facts”. Odumegwu Ojukwu also observed thus: When a public office holder does something outlandish, the media sing his praises instead of condemning him than concentrating on more important national or state issues (Hyginus, 2015) cited in (Galadima, 2003).
In vehement support of Ojukwu’s observation, Hyginus, (2015:41) cited in Ternakur (2003:236) describes the Nigerian mass media as “the government said” media is not out of place. Government reflects the will and interests of the class that controls the existing mode of production, power bloc and political machinery in their media outfits. Neither the government nor their media workers ever agree that they misuse the media. Every journalist disassociates himself or herself from the term “propaganda”. In fact, state media is more or less an extension of the ministry of information that cannot but support the policies and programmes of the government in power while criticism is opposed (Okoye, 2010) cited in Casey, 1960).
According to Amir (2014) Federal Government of Nigeria media is even fair and decent as compared to their state government-owned counterparts. This is because the ones at the federal level do their bias professionally and systematically. But those in the states who do so directly and in broad daylight have been fully protected by State Governments and ruling parties’ stalwarts. Amir (2014) stressed that state media wouldn’t dare criticize a state governor in a radio or TV station owned by the state government. They spend half of the time which they should have used in airing meaningful programs in singing praises and sycophantic words for state governors and their wives. Similarly, the private media is not left out especially during electioneering campaigns in order to generate enough revenue to lubricate efforts.
Media and Bias
Broadcast media especially public-owned media since its first appearance in Nigeria had been singing praising the power that is, from the colonial dictator to regional government, independence, military dictatorship and to the enthronement of democracy, the stories were not different (Olayinka, 2014). One of the most annoying and disgusting things in Nigeria nowadays is to tune in to State public or Federal publics-owned radios or TV stations, this is because most of what is been broadcast are systematically partisan and occasionally one-sided in favour of those that are in power either at the federal level or at the various states. At times, their coverage is directly biased, shamelessly misjudging and unfortunately sycophantic.
Furthermore, when at their best, they only tell the truth halfway or they tell it in a systematically partisan and one-sided way to favour the individuals in power and to give people the impression that they are on the right side. They will only tell you the full and detailed truth in matters that do not concern the people in government or in matters in which the people in government have no interest whatsoever. Whereas they will jump at any slight opportunity to exaggerate the good works of government or to expose the faults of perceived government enemies.
The situation with these government-owned media becomes worse during electioneering campaigns where they display their partisanship openly. In the 2015 presidential election, opposition parties particularly APC (then) complained that NTA, AIT and some other media refused to air their adverts under the guise that the contents of those adverts are abusive to the president.
However, when Gen. Ibrahim Babangida promulgated Decree 38 in 1992 which sows the seed for the establishment of private broadcast media in Nigeria, it was believed that the imbalance, sing praising of people in power and access to fair and impartial information will come to pass. In 2015 Presidential Election, the core ethical standards of journalism were eroded and traded in exchange for political benefits from concerned political parties by some media organizations (private and government inclusive). Although, some serious-minded media organizations adhered strictly to the ethical principles of their profession in the face of growing abuse of journalistic etiquette.