This paper evaluates Nigerian press reportage of political campaign during the 2011 presidential election. The major focus of the paper is to assess the role of the Nigerian press in the struggle for political position.
Arguments exist that the role of the Nigerian press in the struggle for political emancipation can be greatly influence by ownership. An owner said to be that person or group of persons who brings together the financial and human resource needed for the running of a business enterprise such as a newspaper house.
However, this influence is more noticeable when such a newspaper is owned by the government such a paper is expected to reflect the orientation and views of its owner. If the newspaper is privately owned, it will be independent in its reportage.
It is in view of this, that this study wants to looks at how ownership of the various mediums affects their reportage of the political campaign 2011 presidential election.
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Media ownership and control/influence are intertwined. The ownership interests affect what is covered and what is not covered as well as the manner of coverage. Ownership impacts the contents in print publication and the information the readers receive. Ownership influence sometimes accounts for the different versions of the same happenings.
Mc Quail (2005, P.292), commenting on ownership and influence in the media, espouses thus:
There is an inevitable tendency for owners of news media to set broadline of policy, which are likely to be followed by the editorial staff they employ. There may also be informal and indirect pressure on particular issues that matter to owners (for instance, relating to their business interest).
Media outfits ought to be impartial and independent. But as we know, ownership has influence in the functioning of the outfit. The media dames to the tune of the owner.
Ownership is a critical factor in the regulation of the mass media. Media managers are often faced with the dilemma of balancing the media owner’s interest and those of the public without informing on the laws of the candor the ethnics of the profession. Whether media is public or private, the interest of the owner plays a dominant role in determining what the media mangers do or fail to do. Hardly can an owner tolerate a manager who operates contrary to his interest.
Solomon, G. A., Margaret, S. A. & Joseph, A. T. (2009, P.23). Identified types of media ownership as thus:
- Government Ownership
- Private Ownership
- Political Party Ownership and
- Religious Ownership
The political party ownership owns and finances the media outfit. The media serve as the mouth organ of that political party. The media is basically to disseminate information about the party and canvass support for it. The political party has control over the financial affairs and the editorial contents of such media.
It is a common belief that the progress of a society without a virile press will almost always be retarded. The reason is simple: the press as watchdog of the society is charged with the responsibility of ensuring that both the government and the governed do not at any time or in any way shirk the responsibilities to each other.
It is also an obvious fact that the Nigerian press has proved itself to be one of the most virile in the world having played a vital role in the nation’s social, political and cultural life. The press has taken its rightful position as a deciding factor in the nation’s ancient and modern political development as well as in the arduous task of nation building.
Having said these, it is essential to keep in mind that the strength of the press depends to a very large extent on how free it is to operate and its level of independence.
This underlying factor could be said to be responsible for the success of some media organizations, which continue to enjoy wide acceptance from the citizens especially the masses who constitute the vast majority of the population.
The capitalist press ideology holds that the press must be:
- Free from interference by state, corporate and other factional interest.
- Dedicated to the public’s right to know.
- Committed to learning and presenting the truth at all times and being objective and factual in reporting (Aitschill, 1947, P.74).
The social responsibility theory accept that the role of the press is in serving the economic and political system, enlightening the public, safeguarding of the individual and providing good entertainment (Siebert et al, 1956, P.44).
Hence, the press has found itself being manipulated by three categories of people forcing it out of its own influence. This is expected because these elites have all it takes to drown the voice of the press at times, because they are prospectors of such media outfits or because they have the authority of state of influence what the media presents to the public.
This dominant political economy ideology, which the press tends to subscribe to, has been its bane, as it negates the fundamental philosophy of the press obtainable in a civilized system where the media operate freely.
Instead of being an independent agent of change, the press has merely become a source of gratification for the elites. For the political elites, it is simply a more powerful tool for promoting political course through the antics of news management and propaganda in order to achieve both public and private ends.
The press therefore tends to assume an establishment or opposition identity depending on the political status of these elite who have all it takes to control them especially when the issue of ownership is involved.
In this regard, the performance of media outfits can be reflected in the cannon axiom that “it is he who pays the piper that calls the tune” hence instead of a “watchdog” the Nigeria press is merely a dog fed and tamed by its master and is expected to watch and work for the master.
This analysis shows that the Nigeria press lacks the cultural identity that is becoming the press, which operate in a cultural system. The dominant political economic culture of the owners of media organization is obviously responsible for this. This stance diminishes the objectivity of the press and thus forms the crux of this research.
For the purpose of clarity and convenience, this study will base on survey of guardian on the reportage of an issue that shook the fabric of our nation; the political campaign of the 2011 presidential election, in which Dr. Goodluck Jonathan became the winner.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The media is certainly an agent of positive change in the society and a catalyst in nation building but unfortunately owners of media organizations tend to exert so much influence, interfering and manipulation on news content to gratify their selfish ends, this hampering the objectivity by the dictates of the media cultural identity and ethnics. According to Gerhard Wendler: (1996, P.44), he opines that
“The press occupies a strategies position in influencing the course of event in the society and this is because it is the custodian of and accessory to information and whichever it decides to do with such may go a long way in helping to influence the direction in which the society moves”.
It is a fundamental role and responsibility of the press to act as the custodian of public consequence, watchdog over government activities, muscle of public opinion, as well as essential agent in facilitating the development of a nation.
However, for the press to effective performs its function, its independence must be guaranteed, it must be devoid of sentiment and distribution.
Media organization are established to serve the masses but with the issue of ownership it become near impossible to categorically determine if media organization are truly independent of the influence and altitude of their owners.
1.3 RESEARCH QUESTION
The newspaper can attract and direct attention to problems, solution or people in ways which can favour a popular candidate or even the opposition candidate during election. In some cases, the newspaper can serve as a channel of persuasion and mobilization of resource, information and manpower. Looking at the impact newspaper plays in disseminating information during election and how it influences the values and standards by which issue are addressed, it is important that this study will seek to answer the following question.
- How does the ownership influence affect the performance of media practitioners?
- Does the policy of a particular media determine its activities?
- Does the interest of the media owner influence practitioner style of reporting?
1.4 PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
Bearing in mind, that media outfits have a duty to serve the people but that the issue of ownership poses a threat to this ethical function. However this work attempt to:
- Established the impact of ownership on political campaign and reporting.
- Established level of independence which the press has, observable in political courage.
- Ascertain what is the cultural identity of the press and the bearing it has with the fundamental philosophy.
- Proffer solution(s) to secure the objectivity and fairness character of the media.
This study will also attempt to evaluate the performance of the press through reportage of newspaper organization in the right of the expected performance of the press, as defined in its function and ethnics.
In addition, the wok will compare and contrast the role concept and role behaviour of the press against the backdrop of the political economic ideology of prospectors of newspaper outfit using the reportage of 2011 presidential campaign using guardian as a case study.
1.5 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
The scope of the study is hinged on the role of the guardian newspaper during the 2011 presidential elections.
The reason for using guardian as an object of focus is because of its ownership pattern, circulation strength, availability and which range of courage of both national and international political issues.
1.6 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
Considering the earlier discussed dominant tendencies of owners of media organization and the subservient attitude of reporters and editors who are the main performers of media roles, it is essential to embark on such work as this towards further sensitizing media workers especially journalist on their determinate role and responsibilities to the society.
It is hoped that the study will awaken the editors to reinforce their stance on matter affecting their day to day editorial function and issue affecting press freedom.
Furthermore, it is intended to serve as a remainder to owner of media outfits that the use of the media as exclusive propaganda organs is a series abuse of the media.
1.7 LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
No sound investigation can be carried out without impediment which tends in threatens the success of the research. This research work is no exemption.
One of the problems encountered by the researcher is time.
As a result of the short duration of the session, it was not an easy task combing classroom activities with going to field to collect materials for the research.
Couple with the above problem is materials. Due to poor state of the polytechnics library to another looking for relevant materials for the research and further aggravated the precarious financial position of the researcher as a student.
1.8 OPERATIONAL DEFINITION OF TERMS
The following terms are defines as they are used in the study.
Refer to a cream of people usually a cross section of the over articulate elites of the ruling class in the society who by virtual of their economic and political power possess an influence or control over the newspaper.
Capability of the press to carry its function judiciously in compliance without its professional ideology with being bias.
The power which the owner of a newspaper wilds over the policy and the general content of the newspaper.
Any restrain or constraint in the newspaper.
The channel or devices and process f gathering and disseminating information idea attitude and influence to the public e.g. newspaper.
Ability of a newspaper to report an event as it happened without being bias.