News Commercialization – its Impact on Management of Broadcast Media

News Commercialization – its Impact on Management of Broadcast Media

News Commercialization – its Origin

“The origin of the concept “Commercialization” is dated as far back as the media itself.  And has always been an allowance for advertising, which is considered part of the media content.

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Indeed, advertising has been a strong pillar holding the existence of the media industry including government owned ones whose operation also depend on subvention from the government.  Advertising revenues subsidize considerably the running cost of the media.

According to wiring et al (1963) page 4, these adverts are not usually difficult to decipher, the tone is dear and distinct, and they are “paid form of non-personal ideas by an identified sponsor.

In the newspapers and magazines, the power of advertising.  In influencing editorial policies is very evident to the extent that newspaper organization can reduce the number of editorial items on pages of an edition in preference to adverts (tagged adversarial).  This is the far it can go out and not to disguise adverts as news.  In broadcast media the much incursion advertising had as news bulletin has been commercial breaks out certainly not to disguise commercial item as part of the mews aired for its intrinsic social and news value.  Considering this angle for instance, one could see that public service broadcasting were strange bedfellows and indeed parallel lines.

With the advert of Structural Adjustment Programme SAP by the Ibrahim Babangida Military regime as from 1986, the economy witnesses considerable deregulation.

Consequently, a member of public and private organization started to experience harsh economic circumstance leading to the untimely decline of many outfits.  The basic trust of that government economic policy i.e. SAP was to encourage self-reliance and reduce dependence.  For any organization to survive the policy therefore, called for greater ingenuity, creativity and perseverance.  So as social institution owned exclusively by government were among the first to receive the shocking effect of Structural Adjustment Programme (See Akuebue 1989 and NTA Annual Report 1992).

The government subvention later declined, the advertising revenue was rather insufficient to run the media.  Faced with the inability to pay salaries of workers, procure or service available equipment and myriad of other problems occasioned by the decline in government subvention, the various Television Authority and Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria devised several other means to make money.  One of such means is the commercialization of news in the broadcast media now being practiced throughout the country.

Individual, communities, private and public organization, local government, the state governments and Ministries gain access to the mass media if they are able to pay a prescribed fee.

In other words, they can be heard on these media during news time for a prescribed fee.  The message, they wish to put across is the couched in a news form and included in the news bulletin.  In addition, the news analysis, commentary after the news or news talk as they are variously called, can also be bought by a prospective customers/client who remains unidentified.

By definition WILLY NNOROM (1994) defined news commercialization as “Phenomenon whereby the electronic media report a news or news analysis or commercial message by an unidentified or unidentifiable sponsor, giving the audience the impression that news is fair, objective and socially responsible”.

It is generally accepted as truth as journalism is fact finding and fact giving i.e. the dissemination of the facts gathered.

In fact, it is about truth telling, hence the first item in the code of conduct for journalist is that every journalist must know that the public is entitled to truth and that only correct information can form the basis for sound journalism and ensure the confidence of the people.

A Publication of Punch Newspaper of October 1992 titled “Communication of News” stated that traditionally and professionally too, the editor or indeed members of the editorial team of newspaper, magazine, radio or television determine what is news.  This shows that for any story to be endorsed as news, it must have gone through the gatekeepers as it is called in journalism parlance.  But today most electronic and print media have fallen prey to power or advertising leaving behind their social responsibility.

In the same vein, stated another publication “Most media establishment stated the commercialization of news as a means of surviving in the face of gross financial constraints.  The government owned media establishments, which are being choked by poverty asset the pace in this ugly practice (PUNCH OCTOBER 26, 1992).

Experience have shown, that commercialization of news by the media now battles with the challenges of the media social responsibility turning the whole scenario to a money sizzling venture, for example, Nigeria Television Authority NTA (Enugu) in their bid to give me information during the course of the research for why commercialization of news  in their media thus, replied, apparently in a bid to survive we the “gate keepers” throw our gates open meaning that only those who could pay “Toll gates” as it were called were allowed to grass”.

Little wonder Olivia .I. Utoh said that “the social or public service role of the media organization especially the broadcast or electronic media has diminished considerably giving way to a situation whereby access to the mass media is guaranteed by how much money one offers to the media”.

Regrettably, the voices of the weak in Nigeria will continue to draw under the current commercialization of news.  This is because only the rich can pay his way into expensive national network news or radio and television.

Further more, Uchenna (1996, P. 73) X –rayed the impact of news commercialization policy as censorship and gate-keeping problem to an editor or rather media management.  He stated the “obviously, the editor is handicapped and hoodwinked under the commercialization policy.  He cannot edit stories according to known standards or principles in journalism.  The editor is often careful not to edit the substance or length of the story which has been paid for.  In fact, any story marked “Paid” is a sacred cow which must not be touched even if you have an over running bulletin”.

Thus, we can observe that the editor’s choice of selecting facts that constitutes news stories as it pertains to commercial news is entirely ousted by the money paid for the story.  That is to say that they editor cannot rely on the standard criteria of determining newsworthiness to evaluate whether commercial news story qualifies as news items.  He is therefore, helpless are clipped or tired by the mere fact that the story had been pad for.  Money is now the new evaluator and perhaps editor.  Regrettable, this situation has persisted in flagrant violation of the code established by the National Broadcasting Commission, the legal body which governors broadcasting in this country.

There is no gain saying about the fact  that  most broadcasting stations in the country are victims of the violation of these provisions, more especially government owned ones.  They have constantly continued to exploit various avenues of generating additional revenue necessary for sustaining themselves in the business of broadcasting.  And also to argument the meager subvention that is coming from the various government that run them.

News Commercialization /Implication Of Social Responsibility, NTA Perspective

I cannot go far without putting forward that the “Power or back up” to continue commercialization of news originated from the decree N0 8 of 1st April 1978 and amendment decree of 1989, which states.

“Subject to the provisions of this section or in its behalf may be sponsored and may include advertisement and sponsored announcement broadcast in consideration of payment of fees to be specified be the corporation, be persons requiring such sponsored programmes, advertisement and announcement”.

The above seems to be the skeleton with which the right of NTA to commercialize stands.  By he words of Emeka Okpala, Staff of National Television Authority (NTA) Enugu “Our reason of commercialization was because of the lean resources of the government, they (government) decided to commercialize and privatize some of its news.  It hoped that the action will also bring about efficiency in the establishment.

Under the partial commercialization, government subventions to NTA was considerably reduced since the media is expected to generate revenue internally through commercialization.

As a result of the partial commercialization, the media (NTA) now charge for certain categories of news items which before 1978 were used free in the news on other programmes.

Implementing the commercialization policy NTA have drawn a line between what is their social responsibility to the citizens and what should be paid for.  Stories such as market fire disaster and unknown corpse lying in a public place; fatal road accidents, outbreak of disease etc. are used free as our social obligations to the publics.

Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) Enugu staff are not the view that under the commercialization agreement with the government was supposed to have freely equipped the media with modern tools of trade to enable to stand on a firm setting, unfortunately, the federal government did not do this.  The result is that while the government expects them to make enough money they are not able to do so because of their obsolete equipment.

Here in NTA, asserted their controller news and current affairs “Our channel for instance, hardly show dear pictures, cannot be picked without a reasonable radius and there is no vehicle to go about our commercialization.  In view to draw a border line between the social responsibility of the media and commercialization of news, NTA argues that certain non-governmental organization will want their activities to be aired free because they are non-profit making.  Many argue that the media has a social responsibility to promote their activities, which are designed to upright the people.  But a media maintained that even the “Red Cross Society” pays its electricity and telephone bills yet those people are charity organization whose responsibility should not get light free, still bills.

Buttressing the above, the implication facing this organization at stake could be views from the quotes of MR REGINALD OKOCHI, press secretary to the government in his seminar/lecture as thus:

“In Nigeria, the implications of journalism that hampers their social responsibility could be likened to that of lack of respect to the ethics of journalism.  Disguise of brown envelope syndrome is now christened commercialization of news”.

In conclusion, NTA still maintained that due to the dropping of government subvention and advertising revenue as rather insufficient to run the media, faced with the inability to pay salaries or workers procure of service available equipment and myriad of the other problems occasioned by the decided to go commercial as against some of our social responsibility.                                      


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