What makes media industry unique from others is it is not solely for profit. An effective media enterprise which worth its name must as a matter of exigency gives premium attention to its public goods orientation. Any attempt to treat this with glove hand will undermine media company’s values and roles in the society. Unfortunately today, the dwindling fortune of the media industry, especially the prints, had driven it to the extreme where the industry has become overly commercial – driven than the public goods service which differentiates it from others.
While following this path, the media companies in Nigeria are gradually losing their value to the society. The unfortunate thing is the industry players continue to pretend all is well that ends well within a survival of the fittest economy. A major challenge this attitude has created is dwindling trust in many of these premium media brands once highly rated as authentic and truthful.
Unlike before, where people only took with a pinch of salt every news from public owned media houses, many privately owned premium media brands in Nigeria are also gradually falling into this category. Despite private media houses had refused to see the handwriting on the wall.
It was in 2012, while in an international workshop in Nairobi, Kenya, where a sizeable numbers of journalists from premium media houses in Nigeria were present, that I privately raised the issue with few of these colleagues. I asked if they noticed media contents and space in our media platforms meant for raising discussion, debate and addressing our national development had been subtly commercialised.
The trend then was for corporate warlords within the nation to hire ‘media soldiers’ camouflaged as in-house journalists to be their personal mouthpieces and by extension their corporate entities.
The common trend was that columns, editorials, features stories would be published in a clever way suggesting they were raising the voice of the voiceless but the ultimate goal was to tilt the balance in enhancing public acceptance and positive engagement of the sponsors.
Each word in these published contents is valued at a price lower than a US dollar or can be closed to three dollars. Imagine if the piece runs up to a thousand words? Rumours had it senior editors; correspondents are major recruit for this job. The system knows but many publishers, owners and other industry watchers turned blind eyes as it was a means for making up for unpaid salaries.
The above is not limited to prints. A sizeable Radio, Television guys were involved. For certain guests to be invited to a talk-show, some guests have been briefed by the hosts they must give a certain amount for the ‘supposed’ exposure.
In all these corrupt practises, media value usually goes down. In many Instances, news consumers are fed with deception. But the system continues to present the impression the media is out to give quality content which in many instances had been diluted with falsehood.
Fast forward to 2018, Politicians and especially state governors, now have a field day. State governors are better at wasting public fund. Not all of them though. But Nigeria premium media brands in both electronics and prints; and if we must include digital platforms are now equal partners In their willingness and availability.
Many of our premium media brands in Nigeria are available for sale. Not many will agree. Unfortunately, it will take keen news consumers to know the difference between which media content on the table had been offered for sale and the one from a pure and professional service.
Today, many premium media houses are departing from its real value in order to catch up with financial demands of running a whole, healthy and successful media enterprise based on values and public goods dimension.
Where do we go from here? Those media houses involved in this must as a matter of urgency retraced their steps. It is true a sole dependence on adverts is no longer sustainable and the income from these sources is no longer enough to keep media company running. The demand to be creative and innovative is staring every industry in the face if it must continue to be relevant.
Media houses must seek ways of generating income within and outside its box without compromising traditional values they are known for. If the media become the weapon in the hands of the oppressors and can no longer give hope to the voiceless, then our society must suffer for this.