NIGERIA MEDIA MONITOR
MEDIA MONITOR #03-06 MONDAY, February 9, 1998. * NUJ CHIEF SUES EMPLOYERS OVER DISMISSAL * TV BOSS TAKES NITEL TO THE PRESIDENCY * VETERAN JOURNALIST PASSED ON * FIVE PRIVATE FIRMS BEGIN TELECOM SERVICES * WHO RECOMMENDS LICENCE RENEWAL? * MEDIA ROLES IN POLITICAL ADVOCAY NEWSREEL
NUJ CHIEF SUES EMPLOYERS OVER DISMISSAL
The chairperson of the Imo State Council of the Nigerian Union of Journalist (NUJ). Mrs Oby Eke-Agbai, has taken her employer the Imo State Newspaper Limited, the General Manager of the company, Mr. Martins Ebe, the Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice of the state and Mr. B.A.O Nnorom to court claiming N5million ($59,000) for wrongful termination of her appointment.
In a suit dated 26 January 1998, Mrs. Eke-Agbai prayed the court to declare that the purported termination of her appointment with the Imo Newspapers Limited by a letter dated 14 December, 1997 was in bad faith, unlawful, unconstitutional, null and void and of no effect whatsoever.
The ordeal of Mrs. Eke-Agbai started in 3 September 1997 when she was beaten to a state of coma by soldiers at the Imo State. Early in October 1997, a handful of dissident journalists believed to be government agents in Imo State purportedly removed Mrs. Eke-Agbai as the chairman of the Imo State Council of the NUJ. However, the National Congress of the NUJ, held in Ibadan fom 7 to 10 November 1997 condemned the conduct of the journalists and affirmed Mrs. Eke-Agbai, as the current chairman of the Imo State Council of union.
Mrs Oby Eke-Agbai's appointment as a staff of the Imo State Newspaper Limited, publisher of The Statesman, was terminated via a letter dated 15 December 1997 by a 3-man panel set up by the Imo State Newspaper Limited. According to Mrs Eke-Agbai, the panel arbitrarily recommended the termination of her appointment upon a fake and trumped-up re-organisation exercise.
TV BOSS TAKES NITEL TO THE PRESIDENCY
The proprietor of African Independent Television - (AIT) Dr. Raymond Dokpesi has reported the Nigerian Telecommunication Ltd (NITEL) to the presidency for the corporation's refusal to clear his television station for satellite broadcast.
It was gathered that the television station had paid close to 400,000 dollars to intersal for the lease of satellite space and it was directed to the regional arm which is an inter-governmental body. Subsequently, the television station was allocated transponder 2020 but as a private station, it has to notify Nigerian Telecommunication (NITEL) to approach the regional body on its behalf. But this has allegedly been done by NITEL.
Dr. Dokpesi said he had to take the action when every efforts, including securing audience with the Minister of Communication Brigadier Aziza, have been fruitless.
VETERAN JOURNALIST PASSES ON
A veteran journalist, Mr. Ogeni Gob Wigo is dead.
Mr. Idigo worked as the editor of Daily Times and Nigerian Outlooks, Director of New Nigerian Newspaper, and Sole Administrator of the Daily Star Printing and Publishing Company Limited. He was buried on 30 January, 1998 in his house at Aguleri in Anambra State.
FIVE PRIVATE FIRMS TO BEGIN TELECOM SERVICES
Five private telephone operators will this week begin to provide services, strengthening the deregulation of the telecommunications sector which began via Decree 75 of 1992.
The five companies are following Multi links Telecommunications Limited which started as the first private operator 63 days ago with 10,000 digital lines.
The five companies Em-International System Limited (EMIS), Intercellular Nigeria Limited, Mobitel Limited, Independent Telephone Network and Communications Infrastructure Limited - will among them deploy 45,000 digital lines within Lagos and its environs. The networks may later be expanded in multiples of thousands to attain full capacity of 280,000 digital lines for Lagos alone.
Besides the Independent Telephone Network (ITN) which is already connected to the Main Distribution Frame (MDF) of the Ikeja Telephone Exchange owned by the Nigerian Telecommunications (NITEL) Limited, the other four - EMIS, Intercellular, Mobitel and Communications Infrastructure, are already at the point of interconnection.
EMIS, Intercellular and Communications Infrastructure have signed interconnectivity pacts with NITEL while sources close to NITEL said Mobitel whose equipment was endorsed last week by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) as fit to interconnect and interface with NITEL will sign the inconnectivity pact this week.
Four companies EMIS, Intercellular, Mobitel and Communications Infrastructure have been allocated EI interconnection circuits while Independent Telephone Network has been allocated Direct Inward Dialling (DID) facility at Ikeja.
At the point of interconnection at Saka Tinubu, Victorial Island at the weekend, Siemens Limited, Nigeria, the main contractor laying the fibre optic cable to facilitate interconnection of the four new entrants, was putting finishing touches to the work. The company had earlier laid a full swing fibre optic cable from the point to the Victoria Garden City (VGC) on behalf of Communications Infrastructure whose telephone exchange is located at VGC, Ajah, near Lekki Peninsula.
Communications Infrastructure is a division of constructions giant, H.F.P. Engineering Limited. The exchange will provide services exclusively to residents of the VGC, a model city on the outskirts of Lagos. Besides VGC, the services will be extended to the environs including Ajah and parts of the Lekki Pennisula phases I and II Source: Guardian, February 2, 1998.
WHO RECOMMENDS LICENCE RENEWAL?
The warnings and appeals reeled out to radio and television stations by the management of the National Broadcasting Commission since its inception are many and varied. And like lyrics fitted into different melodies, they have been singing the same song.
However, all things being equal, the cumulative effect, and in consequence, the impact of these pronouncements should have by now compelled the stations concerned to abide by the stipulations of the National Broadcasting code as they affect deregulation. But up till now, not one station can be said to have fully complied.
Maybe the current renewal exercise involving licences of private TV and cable satellite redistribution can bring about the much needed enforcement that is necessary for compliance, as it will afford the commission the opportunity to review the activities of the erring stations.
However, it should be borne in mind that the fault is not only in the selected stations. Rather, all have erred and come short of the expectations of objective viewers and listeners. All the stations need to come under a blanket review so that they could be made once and for all, through concerted action, to fall in time.
In August 1996 for instance, the NBC met with chief executives of stations who intimated the commission with all the problems they face in the course of their operations.
At a meeting held at the instance of the NBC at the VIP lounge of the National Theatre, Lagos operator of the stations exchange views with the management of the NBC, and at the end of the day, the regulatory body pressed home certain strong points in relation to their unsatisfactory operation.
The Director-General did not mince words when he said that the commission is seriously committed to the monitoring of all the stations' operations with a view to assessing their performances. His assessment of some of the stations was predicated on the chances of getting their licences renewed.
From his score sheet at the time, Murhi International Television was doing a good job while African Independent Television was considered to be overstepping its bounds because it was overstretching itself.
Said he, "I think your ambition to make 24 hours is seemingly pushing you on to doing a few things you are not supposed to do. I hope you will not be accused of piracy. I am not saying you are already but I just want to caution you about that." In the same vein however, the NBC boss commended AIT's sister radio, RayPower 100FM for "the considerable improvement on the content of your music." He went further to say, "There was a time I was livid due to too much erotic things you put out."
He went ahead on the same platform to criticise Dengue Broadcasting Network Television which he said needed to do a lot of work before its license could be renewed. Said he, "Your picture quality is quite good but the content is very questionable as you run into problem with NTA over rights."
The question of right can easily be sorted out between DBN and NTA; and should no attract any penalty. But while he gave clean bills to channels Television, Minaj Systems and Desmims Television, he said that Clapper Board Television, and Galaxy had problems which needed fire brigade action and solution.
Cable satellite distribution did not escape the wrath of the commission. Aside from inability to comply strictly with the 20 percent local content stipulated by the NBC, many of them were said to be facing technical problems occasioned by thunderstorms and vandalisation. Violations also included piracy, copyright infringement, pornography and the like.
The bottom line of all this is that all is not well with the electronic media as far as the deregulation policy is concerned.
However, Television licences due for renewal in June are those of Clapper Board Television, Degue Broadcasting Network, Murhi International TV, Channels all in Lagos. Desmims TV, Kaduna, IBW Enterprises TV Benin, Galaxy Pictures TV, Ibadan and Minaj Systems TV, Obosi.
According to the NBC, renewal of these licenses would depend on the report of a special panel of veteran broadcasters to be inaugurated by the National Commission.
Also, from the meetings held with chief executives of the stations last December it was gathered among other things that "viewers and listeners who are after all the ultimate stake holders in broadcasting will have an important role to play in deciding whether or not you deserve to continue using the public air waves, and in what better ways you can serve them if your licence is renewed."
There is no doubt that viewers and listeners are the stake holders because they are the consumers of the programmes. And this is why programme content should be the main issue. But by merely compromising to concede any percentage at all in terms of foreign as against local productions, let alone a ratio as high as 40-60, the NBC has admitted that there is a basic problem of lack of sufficient patriotism arising from our cultural disposition which is hypocritically artificial, leaning towards the West.
As a result, any station that sets out in the present circumstances to do the ideal thing by broadcasting a hundred percent local programmes would be unpopular, and would find it difficult to attract commercials to sustain itself. The whole venture would be completely unprofitable. Only the government can run that kind of public service broadcasting today.
The truth is that the general public which constitute the target audience are themselves the victims of the cultural subjugation that we are talking about. As "the ultimate stake holders in broadcasting," they have a preference for Western cultural values and they dictate the tune. And since the stations are in commercial business, they are forced to give the people what they want in order to survive.
Even though viewers and listeners are the best judges, we have a situation in our hands where their objectivity cannot be relied upon as far as adhering to the code of conduct for deregulation in concerned. If made to sit on the license renewal panel the majority of them are likely to identify with foreign programmes.
However, it is pertinent to say that some of the new generation broadcasters are brilliant, and since the business of broadcasting has become dynamic, they should be allowed to sit in the renewal committee along with veteran broadcaster. But a lot will be gained from the inclusion of mass communication experts not only in taking decision for renewals of licences but also for programme policy formulations.
However, it id believed that licences should be given to those who can afford to establish and maintain stations. In this regard the commission should have its way of ascertaining financial viability for qualification. More importantly, all the stations should be prepared to use the medium for national development.
One only hopes that some day, the cultural awareness, discipline and patriotism required for this resolve will manifest themselves, for every one to be able to comply, without any prompting. Source: Guardian, January 30, 1998.
MEDIA ROLES IN POLITICAL ADVOCACY In our country, Nigeria, where records are hard to come by, because they are either poorly kept, or not kept at all (and our memories are short), I am happy to observe that the Nigerian Guild of Editors is able to recall that I became president of the Guild 23 years ago in Benin City on Friday, 30th November, 1973, as the first journalist from the electronic media to be so selected. As a matter of fact, I took over from our famous Alhaji Alade Odunewu better known as Allah De, who had then become Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Tourism. We congratulate him heartily for making the age of 70, and yet looking 50. The general secretary elected in Benin was Prince Tony Momoh, then Editor of the Daily Times, who later became Federal Minister of Information, in which position he established a code for writing letters to his "Countrymen" or rather "Fellow Nigerian". I was re-elected, un-opposed, at the next conference held at the Lugard Hall in Kaduna on the 24th and 25th of February, 1975. At the conclusion of the Kaduna Conference, the Guild issued a communique which I believe would be of some interest to you:
The Newspaper Amendment Act made punishable, by imprisonment, the publication of false statements, reports, or rumous; and the Trade Disputes (Emergency Provision) Decree banned strikes and lock-outs. These took place in the early days of the Muhammed/Obasanjo Regime.
I have read the 1975 Communique, in extenso, to highlight the fact that the terrain for the media in Nigeria has not changed much, if at all, in the last 20 years.
I would like to draw attention, in particular, to the position of the Guild as regards the formation of a Press Council. The fate of a government-sponsored Press Council was aptly lamented by the current chairman, Alhaji Alade Odunewu, when he explained that the council could not act on the issue of harassment and detention of journalists without trial because the Board of the Press Council has not been inaugurated! You can read his statement in last week Thursday's issue of The Guardian. (November 13, 1997).
Indeed, it is not only the Board of the Press Council that is awaiting inauguration. The same condition afflicts the National Broadcasting Commission where, the Director-General, Dr. Tom Adaba, is working virtually as 'Sole Administrator', without matching powers.
The New Agency of Nigeria is facing similar difficulties as a government parastatals. Quite recently, the agency distributed a statement by a federal minister, in fact, the minister under whose portfolio the News Agency falls. The statement was on a topical political issue and seemed to be well-reasoned, logical, and innocuous. About a couple of days after the story was published in the media, the minister denied ever saying anything close to what was published. The New Agency could not say a word in protest against such serious attack on its credibility!
At the time proposals for the establishment of a National News Agency were being discussed, the argument of the Nigerian Press Organization was that such a New Agency should rightly be set up by the media in order to ensure its independence, efficiency and credibility. However, owing to the tardiness of the media groups, principally because of lack of funds, government had to take the initiative to establish the New Agency of Nigeria (NAN). The same want of strength on the part of the media organisations led to the setting up of the Press Council by government.
But that is just a bit of history, necessarily told by the way. My brief today is to make "a 30-minutes presentation on "Media roles in Political Advocacy." I must praise officers of the Guild for their creativity and innovativeness. The subject they have thrust on me is a novelty. We are all familiar with subjects such as "The role of the Media in national Development; "Media Roles in a Developing Economy"; "FREEDOM OF THE MEDIA"; and such like, but, not to my knowledge, have we attempted to discuss "The Role of the Media in Political Advocacy."
Again, I am asked to make a 30-minute presentation.." not the usual present a paper.." thus giving me the option of either making a written paper presentation or, as I have chosen to do, unwritten presentation.
DEFINITIONS: Now, we must first of all be very clear in our minds about what "Political Advocacy" means. The News Lexicon Websiter's Dictionary of the English Language - 1988 Edition, defines politics as: "the art and science of the government of a state: public affairs or public life as they relate to this: the opinions, principles or policies by which a person orders his participation in such affairs; scheming and maneuvering within a group, for example, college politics. On the other hand, to advocate is: to plead on behalf of; use persuasion in support of; and the noun advocate is "a person who plead on behalf of another, especially in a court of law; a person who speaks or writes in support of some cause, argument or proposal". Thus, advocacy is an instance of advocating, or support for a cause or recommendation of a line of action.
COLONIAL NIGERIA: In Nigeria, what may be described as the glorious era of political advocacy was the period before independence from colonial rule. The earliest newspapers were established by nationalists fighting against colonial rule, and they were united in that pursuit. Vibrant politicians and writers such as the inimitable Herbert Marcauley, Ernest Sisei Ikoli, H.O.Davies, S.L. Akintola, Samuel Akisanya, heralded the arrival of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, with his chain of newspapers -the Zik Group-led by the West African Pilot with its motto "Show the light and the people will find the way." Editorial opinions, such as one captioned: WHOSE EMPIRE DAY?", and another, "A CALL TO ACTION landed the editors in prison on charges of treason.
Broadcasting, that is, radio and television, came much later, and in any case, their role in political advocacy was, and is still grossly limited because they were all government-owned, until quite recently, when private radio and television stations came into existence. Therefore, we should concentrate our presentation on the print media, which are pre-dominantly owned by private entrepreneurs who do exhibit their preferences and bias from time to time.
MEDIA OWNERSHIP: It is common knowledge that ownership determines the political focus of the media. Look at the example of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (F.R.C.N) which is wholly-owned by the Federal Government, just as the Nigerian Television Authority (N.T.A). The law creating F.R.C.N makes it mandatory for the corporation "to provide a public service in the interest of Nigeria, independent and impartial radio broadcasting services for general reception in countries outside Nigeria. It goes on: "The corporation shall ensure that the services which it provides, when considered as a whole, shall reflect the unity of Nigeria as a federation and at the same time give adequate expression to the culture, characteristics and affairs and opinions of each state, zone or other part of the federation. Thus, the role assigned to federal radio and television in the realm of political advocacy is to reflect the unity of Nigeria as a federation.
This was the mandate with which Radio Nigeria approached the event of the civil war in the country between 1967 and 1970. Radio being the most powerful medium of political advocacy, with slogans such as "To Keep Nigeria One, is a task that must be done." We would also recall that the advocates of secession had a very strong and perhaps persuasive mouth-piece in Radio Biafra, which was only rivalled by Radio Kaduna.
In Nigeria, we follow the traditions of our colonial master in political advocacy on radio and television. The role of the electronic media is limited to party political broadcasts, in which leaders of the contesting parties come on air to propagate their policies and programmes. Radio and Television must not express an opinion where politics is concerned. I remember an instance in Lagos when a party won the City Council Elections with a majority of two seats. The N.B.C. As it then was, announced the results saying that the party had won with a narrow majority. The winning party protested.
There could be, on radio and television, interviews of party leaders as well as broadcast debates on television as was the case in 1993 when Alhaji Moshood Abiola and Alhaji Ibrahim Tofa faced the cameras in the studios of N.T.A. This is an importation from the United States of America, where free enterprise holds sway and the mass media are owned by private enterpreneurs who indulge at will in political advocay.
The advent of private broadcasting should not lead us to expect more programmes of political advocacy on radio and television. This is because of the regulatory powers of the National Broadcasting Corporation as well as the need for stations to be mindful of the opinions, tastes and interests of listeners and viewers. As of now, radio and television seem to be content with reviews of political opinions and of stories in newspapers.
One fact is that Nigerian newspapers have always fought shy of declaring their political alignments. Publishers would never declare openly on the pages of their newspapers that they were supporting Party A or Party B.
For instance, the publishers of the West African Pilot never announced on its pages that the paper was an organ of the N.C.N.C. It was the same state of affairs with the Daily Service or even the Nigerian Tribune. Neither of which declared openly support for the Action Group.
THE BRITISH EXAMPLE: The situation is entirely different in the land from which we derived our infant nurture in media practice. The last general election in Britain was held on May Day, 1st of May, 1997. Before that date, there had been period of electioneering in which the two major parties, the Conservatives and the Labour Party used all available media to propagate their policies. It was great fun to read the English Dailies during that period. The newspapers made no bones about which party they were supporting. As a matter of fact, more than one newspaper announced on their pages their alignment with the Labour Party. One of such newspapers was the mass circulation tabloid, The Mirror. I have one copy here. Even the Mast-head says it: "The Mirror, Loyal to Labour."
But, one thing you can be sure. Newspaper publishing is business, and in entrepreneurship, the profit motive is always present. Perhaps, that is why Nigerian newspapers are reluctant to declare their political colouring, less they lose advertisement, revenue, which is a major source of covering the costs of publishing. Politics, you know, is a very volatile subject. It can mar relationships, it can destroy mutual trust and confidence, it splits families, can lead to hatred, violence, death?
Thus, you find that, in spite of its declared loyalty to the Labour Party, The Mirror still carries advertisements advocating a vote for the Conservative Party (see p.17) compare P.10 in the same issue where there is another advertisement, this time, urging everyone to vote Labour.
On election day itself, The Telegraph, which supports the Conservatives, carried a full page advertisement, with a portrait of John Major, the Prime Minister seeking re-election. It said; Why Risk a Change... But, and this is very important, the Telegraph itself was honest and sincere enough to virtually concede victory to the Labour Party when it wrote: "Tory support is lowest ever for an eye-of-election poll." Labour, of course, won by a huge majority.
The British have no written Constitution like the Americans who are always quick to draw attention to what has become famous as "The First Amendment," that is the provision relating to freedom of expression. Yet, in Britain, the establishment conventions of governance guarantee to the people full freedom of expression within the law. At the famous Hyde Park in London, one can go to the area designated 'Speakers' Corner' at any time of the day or night and propagate any kind of political, religious or economic doctrine. The News Media are always represented there and ready to "publish and be damned."
We must not also forget the efficacy of bill-boards, and sky-writing. During the last British elections, bill-boards with flamboyant posters appeared all over London and other places campaigning for this or the other party. There was no one particularly funy one which depicted the Labour Leader, Mr. Tony Blair, as a red-eyed vampire. The caption on read: New Labour, New Danger! The Red Rose is the symbol of the Labour Party.
Sky-writing was introduced in Nigeria during the 1959 Federal Elections, by the Action Group, using a helicopter. The medium came and went with that election. Perhaps, it was considered too expensive, especially as the party lost the main contest for the president.
Bill-Boards with posters are now being challenged by cheaper and equally enduring leaflets and graphic writing splashed conspicuously with British and print in public places, like walls, fences, overhead bridges and even in the centre of streets and roads.
CONCLUSION: In summary, we have identified that Media Roles in Political Advocay are governed by:
Type of medium: radio; television; newspaper or news magazine, bill-board, leaflet, graphic writings.
Ownership of Medium: Government or Private.
Policy of medium: Independent or Partisan
Political environment: Democracy or Autocracy.
I need not here dilate on the current Nigerian situation, as you, undoubtedly, are more familiar with it than myself.
On a last note, some of you may begin to doubt my credibility and, perhaps rightly too, because I made clear at the beginning that I was going to make an oral, unwritten presentation. You must have observed me reading from a written text. Now, this reminds me of what used to happen in the House of Representatives during the First Republic (1959-1965). The standing orders of the house stipulated that "A member shall not read his speech". However, several members, in breach of this provision, did come to the house with prepared statements which they read with gusto, hardly lifting their faces from the script. Of course, you can trust members from rival parties to raise objection "on a point of order". The protester would say: Mr. speaker, Sir, "The honourable member is reading his speech.."
The speaker, Sir Frederich Metcalfe, a former clerk of the British House of Commons, would then give his ruling. He would say most humorously and with a little smile: "I believe the honourable member is only referring to his notes. Therefore, you should equally accept that I was only referring to my notes!. Being excerpts of a speech delivered by Chief Horatio Agedah last November in Port Harcourt, Rivers State at the Quarterly Forum of the Nigerian Guild of Editors where he was also conferred with the Fellowship of the Guild. He was a past president of the NGE. Source: Daily Champion, January 29, 1998
TO OUR DEAR READERS: Media Monitor is a dialogical project. We expect that its contents will elicit reactions from its readers. Consequently, you are all encouraged to share your feelings with one another on its pages. Letters not longer than 200 words marked for the attention of the Editor, Media Monitor, should be e-mailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org
MEDIA MONITOR IS PUBLISHED WEEKLY AND CIRCULATED WORLDWIDE BY INDEPENDENT JOURNALISM CENTRE (IJC), TEJUMOLA HOUSE, 1ST FLOOR, 24 OMOLE LAYOUT, NEW ISHERI ROAD, P.O.BOX 7808, LAGOS, NIGERIA. TEL/FAX 234-1-4924998; E-MAIL: email@example.com