Influence of Radio Ownership on professional Journalism Practice



1.1 Background of the study

The Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria is the Pioneer Broadcast Organization in Nigeria with a rich culture of excellence. Available records reveal that Radio Broadcasting was introduced into Nigeria in 1933 by the then colonial Government. It relayed the overseas service of the British Broadcasting Corporation through wired system with loudspeakers at the listening end. The service was called Radio Diffusion System, RDS. From the RDS emerged the Nigerian Broadcasting Services, NBS in April 1980. Prior to the NBS, the colonial Government had commissioned the Nigerian Broadcasting survey, undertaken by Messrs Byron and Turner which recommended the establishment of stations in Lagos, Kaduna, Enugu, Ibadan and Kano. Mr. T.W. Chalmers, a Briton and controller of the BBC Light Entertainment Programme was the first Director-General of the NBS.

Radio ownership and control has since colonial times been subjected more to political exigencies than economic forces. Successive governments have, in the laws they enact and enforce, made it abundantly clear that the press was at the mercy of politics, and that the political tune to which a paper dances was enough to ensure its survival or death Abramsky, (2005). The laws and their implementation have seldom encouraged private investment in the media nor given radio proprietors reason to believe that it is feasible to run it as a business by attracting advertisement revenue with good circulation figures.

The government shows that it is more interested in containing the media politically than in providing its proprietors and practitioners the enabling economic environment they need for professional excellence and financial independence. This has brought about the underdevelopment of the press by imposing on it a series of constraints. No one who knows what a radio looks like (in content and form) take seriously what is passed on news Akpan, (2008), of course, some of the constraints to a vibrant, professional and financially viable radio are obviously internal to the press itself. However, even these so-called internal constraints can be explained by the overt political control and administrative determination to stifle all forms of creative and liberating difference from the status quo that a free press of any kind might seek to encourage Beder, (2002). This necessarily means privileging ignorance over knowledge, and encouraging media practitioners who know little or care little about professionalism.

Thus, the first and main threat to free-flow of information is still largely from wielders of political power, efforts at economic liberalization notwithstanding (Konings, 2006). Control by big business or financial magnates is perhaps a future danger, as overt political interference has made it too risky for the business world to contemplate any meaningful partnership with or investment in the press, the critical private press in particular. During the monolithic era, the sole political pace-setter was the government. Today, there is the added danger of power elites other than the governing, manipulating the press in similar ways if not worse.

Often, the journalists I have interviewed tend to think, quite mistaken, that the only real threat to their freedom and independence comes from proprietors. This is quite understandable, given that the government is directly responsible for repressive laws and their day to day application, and given that the radio owners have consistently worked to keep the press divided through sponsoring the creation of private papers or thwarting attempts to create strong unions of media practitioners (Guiffo, 2003; Nyamnjoh, 2006; Nyamnjoh et al., 2006). This notwithstanding, it is important for journalists to bear in mind that threats to their independence could also come from big business, such as experienced from government. They ought also to note that an equally dangerous threat could arise from unwittingly playing into the hands of the power elite in the opposition, as even they would agree has happened during democratic process. Among the internal constraints to a free press (constraints induced, of course, by governments and radio owners monolithic inclinations and severe laws over the years), is the inadequacy of professionalism and unity among journalists.

The splits, squabbles and instability we have witnessed among radio proprietors and journalists over the past eight years of democratic struggle, mean that the press has been preoccupied more with internal wrangles of its own, than with a conscious, concerted effort as an institution, to pool their resources together and fight for better laws and for persecuted journalists, as well as better inform their readership or viewership Bleifuss, 2005. If journalists are more united and better organized, they could resolve most of the problems that currently plague them and their profession, even if such professional independence.

Lack of job security is equally a constraint. Radio owners have capitalized on the helplessness of the job-seekers, who have not been guaranteed regular salaries. No firm arrangements are reached; as the owners are often more interested in whatever commercial gain they can muster than in professional excellence. This has inevitably led to prostitution by journalists or to what one may term a hand-to-mouth journalism, if not a journalism of misery Burton, 2004. In 1994 and 1995 when I ran a series of training and refresher programmes for journalists under the auspices of the Friedrich-Ebert Foundation in Cameroon, it was not uncommon for journalists to show more interest in the per diem that the foundation paid them for attending, than in the training itself. Journalists find themselves being forced to make unreliable promises to publish stories or slip in an advert here or there; promises which have led to untold problems for them. Any bit of money can lure a journalist to write anything, including blackmail. Even with the official media, a journalist thinks that if he writes this or that flattering article about this or that highly placed person in the ruling party or in the administration, he could be recognised and promoted. The main reason is that journalists do not receive good salaries and therefore have to aspire to extra-professional appointments which can fetch them a little more. The lack of job security has thus negatively affected professionalism as journalists seek to make ends meet through unprofessional practices, usually referred to derogatorily as ‘le journalisme de Gombo’ (‘Soya Journalism’ or ‘bread and butter journalism’) (cf. Tueno Tagne, 2006). Such gombo-isation of the profession has, together with other factors, done much to devalue the journalist and his product in public esteem (FFE, 2003, 2006).

The next type of constraint pertains to financial difficulties that have compounded the problems of news-gathering and news-production, and made papers even less credible as they stretch and strain to make possible every single edition. The high death or hibernation toll among radios Boh, (2007, p.193-230), is clear proof of these difficulties. If currently there is little advertising in the press, and if industry and commerce behave as though advertising were doing journalist a favour, this is due largely to the very unprofessional approach to journalism of which the press is guilty, but also to the fear on the part of businessmen, of drastic government sanctions on anyone caught keen on investing in the private press. Increased professionalism would most likely lead to high circulation and more advertising, and consequently, more revenue for the publishers to invest in new technology. It could also act as an incentive to big business to invest in the media.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Among the problems to a free press (constraints induced, of course, by government’s unchanging inclinations and asphyxiating laws over the years), is the inadequacy of professionalism and unity among journalists. Independence in journalism means freedom from all obligations that might interfere with the fidelity to the public interest. Therefore what the study wants to find out is; how does Radio Ownership Influences Professional Journalism Practice?

1.3 Objectives of the Study

The broad objective of the study is to determine Radio ownership as constraint for professional journalism practice in FRCN.

  1. To determine how journalist are been restricted from their duty.
  2. To ascertain the extent to which journalist protect the confidentiality of their news sources
  3. To determine how the constraints can be solved.

1.4 Research Questions

  1. How do journalists experience restriction in the course of their duty?
  2. To what extent do journalists protect the confidentiality of their news sources?
  3. What are the solutions to the constraints faced by journalist?

1.5 Scope of the Study

There are ethical lights which guide the journalistic enterprise. A good journalist is judged by the extent of his commitment to these ideas of them acting based on their codes. The research will be concerned with FRCN.

1.6 Significance of the Study

This study will help government policy makers, radio owners, Journalist and all students conducting research on the same topic. In the same vain it will be of immense help to the students in Mass Communication department.

1.7 Definition of Terms:

1.7.1 Radio: The transmission and reception of electromagnetic waves of radio frequency, esp. those carrying sound messages.

1.7.2 Constraint: A limitation or restriction.

1.7.3 Journalist: A person who writes for newspapers or magazines or prepares news to be broadcast on radio or television.

1.7.4 Proprietor: The owner of an establishment

1.7.5 Professional: a person who is expert at his or her work: You can tell by her comments that this editor is a real professional.

1.7.6 Influence: The effect that a person or thing has on someone’s decisions, opinions, or behavior or on the way something happens


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