9th October, 2012
By ‘Dimeji Daniels
It is a fact that there is no impartial media the world over, but the need for a reasonable level of impartiality and subtle proprietorship control is needed to allow the media really be the voice of the voiceless and the fourth estate of the realm that it really ought to be.
The judiciary has been described as the hope of the common man, but there is no other profession this description best fits than the media. In a court of law, apart from the fact that justice can be bought, the judge has the prerogative to decide which way the pendulum of justice swings. In the case of the media, once the reporter gets it into the public domain, it is in the court of public opinion which, unlike a court, can never give a unanimous judgement, but again unlike the judiciary, it can sway the simple-minded and the undecided, making them believe lies without contradiction. The purpose of a court judgement, when it is not bought, is to set the records straight and also set precedents on which future truths can be based. Influencing public opinion is not the objective of the judiciary, rather the portrayal of the truth.
The media, though supposedly a defender of the truth, has never seem to be able to do so without trying to influence and win public opinion to its side in making its presented truths accepted and acceptable. The knowledge of this fact is why politicians, corporate organisations, celebrities and businessmen all over the world have, from time to time, made it their non-negotiable duty to always influence what comes out of the media, thereby influencing and swaying public opinion in their favour.
More than anyone else, politicians and political parties whose fortunes have always depended on favourable public opinions consider the media one of the arenas where they battle for supremacy. To ensure victory even before the battle, most of these political parties and politicians have set up their own media outfits to ensure they are not outwitted. Talking about putting your money where your mouth is.
Before you start popping off with names like Bola Tinubu or Gbenga Daniel as examples of media proprietors in Nigeria, let us quickly look at the foreign scene, starting with Fox TV, which has always been a Republican Party apologist, as against CNN. During the famed Al Gore/Bush election, Fox TV was reporting Bush to be leading the poll while CNN was doing the same for Al Gore. These conflicting reports confused Americans, but both divides of the US elites knew the game they were playing. In the end when the results were announced, Americans, in spite of their doubts as to its credibility, couldn’t protest much, after all Fox TV was ‘right’.
Another example is the western media and Aljazeera. Before the middle east came up with Aljazeera, the western media, notably CNN and BBC, were (and are still) always presenting news from the Middle East from the perspective of the West, which of course could (and can still not) feel what people in the middle east feel. Aljazeera was founded to present the Middle East perspectives and create a positive global opinion about the region.
In Nigeria, apart from politically persuaded individuals who have floated their own media houses, both the federal and state governments also have their own media outfits to propagate their programmes and policies, after all if you don’t blow your own trumpet, it is not likely others will blow it well for you, and that is if they blow it at all. The Federal Government has NTA, VON and Radio Nigeria while states have their own TV and radio stations, and in some cases, they have newspaper outfits, like Hope Newspaper in the case of Ondo State and Ekiti Glory in the case of Ekiti State.
While the western media has the level of impartiality I earlier talked about in the first paragraph of this piece and no matter what, they would champion the peace of their region or country, the Nigerian media is a far cry. In as much as the president or governor is satisfied, the government-owned media can report anything, even if it would spark off crisis. A few newspapers are probably the only shining lights. Government, particularly state-owned, and some private media outfits are the worst.
While I was at Radio Nigeria, though our bosses would object to some unpalatable stories about the Federal Government activities, the atmosphere is not as suffocating as what obtains at state-owned media outfits. Most of the governors have turned the state-owned media houses into their fiefdom. Before coming into office, they would do all it takes to condemn the tight-fisted hold of their predecessors on these outfits, but only to turn out worse. Within two minutes of Mimiko’s declaration as the duly elected governor by the Appeal Court, the Ondo State RadioVision Corporation, which had all along stifled everything Mimiko stood for, started displaying congratulatory messages intermittently. Same was the lot of Ekiti State Governor when his predecessor, Segun Oni, held sway. The devil himself must have been shocked at the speed with which Ekiti Television (EKTV) switched allegiance immediately Fayemi was handed his mandate. The former governor and his cronies, who had hitherto held sway, would suddenly become leprous to these stations. Such had been and is still the practice.
What I have, however, discovered is that most times the sitting governor has no hand in the irrational and insane loyalty of these stations and their top management who have jettisoned journalism and taken on boot-licking as their profession. Just last week, a presenter referred to the State TV station where she worked as the State Government Television. I was shocked beyond words, but then I immediately realized the illiteracy of the workers that people most of these stations. From this presenter’s assertion, it is clear that their reasoning tells them that state-owned media outfits are properties of the state government. Obviously, this kind of reasoning is dangerous and cannot be allowed to go on. These workers (and everybody too) must know that state-owned media houses belong to all the indigenes and tax-payers in the state, and not the state government. Obama cannot say he solely owns FBI or CIA. These agencies are funded with American taxpayers’ money and so belong to all Americans. Perhaps Nigerians don’t feel like the owners of these agencies because they hardly pay taxes, but even at that the agencies are funded with money realized from the exploration and sale of the country’s natural and human resources. No president or governor can claim to run government with his own money, at least not a country bedevilled with greedy, self-conceited and unpatriotric leaders like Nigeria.
These politicians, especially state governors, should be beaten at their own game. It is time these state governors started behaving like citizens of modern age who know that state properties belong to all.
•Daniels writes from Ekiti State