THE IMPACT OF GOVERNMENT OWNERSHIP AND CONTROL OF ANAMBRA BROADCASTING SERVICE (RADIO) ON MEDIA OBJECTIVITY
1.1 Background of the Study
Mass media are very important tools of communication, through which information is passed to even the farthest end of the society. They enable us to communicate with each other by helping us to overcome the barriers of time and space. They perform both primary and secondary functions for the society.
The media of mass communication are divided into the electronic (broadcast) and print media. The print media involves mainly magazine and newspaper; they are informers which provide retrievable, researched, in-depth and interpretative news stories of events.
The broadcast media comprise of the radio and television, it has not been as enterprising as it should be. This is due to the majority ownership and control of the broadcast media by the government.
Concisely put, broadcast is a society wide type of message dissemination, which involves the transmission of ideas, words, sounds, pictures and values in the form of signals through the airwaves to a target audience. Broadcasting is an activity of a branch of the media of mass communication called the electronic media that use transmitters and airwaves in the transmission of news and information to their heterogeneous audience.
Ownership is a critical factor for the content of any medium. This implies that there is a connection between ownership and the content and nature of a medium. The nature of ownership itself is determined by the character of the owner, his interests and the vision he has for the medium. Character here indicates whether ownership is private or public, private oriented or non-profit oriented. Interest refers to the economic (business) concerns and
political persuasion of the owner. And vision here, means the idea of the owner about what a medium should be or do and his understanding of the practices and goals of journalism.
All these go a long way to determine the interest of the medium and its coverage of certain issues. McQuail (2000) contends that the belief that ownership ultimately determines the nature of media is not just a Marxist theory but virtually a common sense axiom summed up in Alttschull‟s (1984) “Second law of journalism: the contents of the media always reflects in interests of those who finance them.
The disposition of an owner is to his interests and vision for the medium would also, to an extent determine his view of the theory of social responsibility which sees “media ownership as a form of public trust or stewardship, rather than as an unlimited private franchise” McQuail (2000).
Agba, a communication expert presents further analysis of third world system as a system were ownership and control of the media is typical of communist or socialist countries in which the media are owned publicly and controlled by the dominant political party and also a centralized control, privately owned system.
He explains that media are owned by private organizations and individuals but are firmly controlled by government. This system is operated in Nigeria and many African countries.
In Nigeria, government control can be direct or indirect. There is strict control of the mass media through police and military intervention and harassment. In most countries of the third world, broadcast media are owned by government and consequently easy to control.
The media system that exists in a society is directly related to the political system prevalent in the society. The political system determines the exact relationship between the media and the government. The political system in place also determines the relationship between the media and the people. It also affects the flow of information in the country in which it operates.
This can be traced to the political experience of the western region of Nigeria in the first republic, where; during the 1962 – 1965 political crisis in the western region, broadcasting was employed freely by the government of the day as an instrument for waging an offensive opposition.
Following the activities of major political actors, the government saw its powerful ability then decided to only trust broadcasting media into the care of its loyal. it therefore toyed with the idea of tying the radio and television to what why Edochie of ABS called “its apron.”
The government‟s insistence on moving and controlling the electronic media is in contravention of the universal declaration of human rights article 19 of the UNO. The article 28 stipulates that; Everyone has the right to freedom of opinioned expression, this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and seek, receive and impact information and idea through any media.
Nevertheless, Nigerians are increasingly, decrying government ownership and control of radio and television stations because the stations are increasingly losing its credibility.
Ugo (2008) attributed the fear of the government as;
Factor underlying the restlessness of government of free radio and television from its contribution is nothing but fear. But government has defence against this; it claims that the private ownership would lay volatile Nigerian publics open to selfish manipulation. Hence, it can only trust such big responsibilities into the hands of its loyal.
Due to the government control of the electronic media, they lack credibility and objectivity. This can be accounted in the calibre of workers they parade. Poorly educated editor and reporters who are easy target for manipulation by the government and its agents.
Media ownership pattern has become central to the discussion on mass media and society because Edeani (1985) printed out that; The nature of ownership of any press system determines to a great extent whether that press is dynamic, vigorous and responsive press; or an emasculated, timid, spineless, ineffectual or irresponsible press.
However, we have three main categories of media ownership namely;
1. Government ownership
2. Private ownership
3. Mixed ownership.
But the researcher will be constrained to government ownership of media.
Government ownership implies that the medium is completely financed by the government e.g. Anambra Broadcasting Service (ABS radio), Enugu State Broadcasting Service (ESBS), Radio Nigeria, etc. In government ownership, the government not only finances the media house, but also lay down policies for the media and helps in implementing them. The government previews the news content and news programmes to see if they agree with their policies and what they (the government) want. Also, any news that the government does not want to be made known to the public and is in the news content, the government will erase out of the news content.
Also, the government further controls the media by their decision to invest or not to invest. The government‟s interest will be reflected in their appointment of competent staff.
There is a common saying with regards to mass media control in Nigeria and elsewhere which has become a cliché that “he who pays the piper dictates the tune.” This means that owners of mass media organize, channel, and control what the media broadcast and how they broadcast it.
It is obviously true that mass media owners exert a threatening control over the press, whether the mass media is managed by a board of director‟s appointment, by private owner, or by public corporation established by the government. The media have policies set down by the board. The short term and long term operations.
Because of this influences the ownership, the media has become a mere vociferous tool, propaganda and as well as indispensible instrument used by the government to make or mark their relationship with the masses.