Fake News Has Put The Media In A Precarious Situation – John Momoh

The Chairman of Channels Media Group, Mr John Momoh, has raised concerns about the role of social media and the phenomenon of fake news in the Nigerian media landscape.

Speaking on what the future holds for Nigerian Media, he said creative ideas can be transformed into innovative media products.

Mr Momoh, who is also the Chairman of the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON), said this on Friday in Lagos while addressing senior editors at the Nigerian Guild of Editors Retreat held in collaboration with the United States Mission in Nigeria.

“The subject matter at this retreat is so appropriate. What does the future hold for the Nigerian Media? How do we transform creative ideas into innovative media products? How do we leverage International Partnerships for profitability?

“For those of us who’ve been in the broadcast industry for a decade or more, we know what we mean, when we say the industry has digitally disrupted. Today, new markets are being created, with a new set of values that now threaten existing markets,” he said.

Just as the 2019 Elections is approaching, Mr Momoh said the use of social media gives a lot of concern because of the ease of spread of fake news online.

He said: “Social media, blogs and the ‘fake news’ phenomenon have all thrown the media in a precarious position. Those of us who still believe in the civic value of good journalism has been left in a quandary, as politicians are having a field day, taking a cue from the U.S. President Trump and lambasting journalists for false reportage and balance.

“These aren’t the best times for journalists. social media, which many had hoped will be a saviour with its open access and extensive reach, has actually compounded the problem, by rewarding speed and sensation, over accuracy.”

He said both broadcast and print media are faced with the challenge of unprofessional reducing the quality of information disseminated.

“The broadcaster now faces the endemic challenge of unprofessional activities of some content producers, who create content that does not meet the minimum requirement of the objectives of the mass media – educating, informing and entertaining; all in the drive to wrongly influence the society.

“Newspapers are trying to adjust to the times by creating websites of their own, but that also leads to the decline in their print readership since they now put all of their content online for free. A pointer to the fact that newspapers of the future will mainly take digital form.”

Mr Momoh said the future of both the print journalism and broadcast journalism is, however, a world that would be dominated by three hugely disruptive forces – predictive content, virtual reality and the eradication of language barriers.

According to him, technology can be exploited for media excellence.

“A lot of collaborative opportunities abound and we can share knowledge, share experience, expertise, creativity, culture and other resources across geographic and media boundaries,” he said.

“It’s a new world of media, and it is ready for us. And if used properly, it should inspire and influence, not just entertain and inform.”

Other dignitaries at the event include US Consul General, John Bray, INEC Chairman Professor Mahmud Yakubu, Professor Lai Osho, Funke Egbemode, and Mr Jiti Ogunye, among others.

My Administration Will Uphold Press Freedom – Buhari

buhariNigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, has assured journalists that his administration would uphold the freedom of the press, in order to deepen the nation’s democracy.

President Buhari made the promise through his Senior Special Adviser on Media, Mr Femi Adesina, at the triennial National Delegates Conference of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Abuja.

The President urged the media to partner with his administration for national development.

The conference was held to elect new leaders that will run the affairs of the union for the next three years but before the commencement of the election proper, dignitaries at the conference took turns to comment on the state of the Nigerian media.

Different speakers made recommendations for developing the media sector.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara and Senator Shehu Sani from the All Progressives Congress in Kaduna Central, were present at the conference.

Lecture On ‘Mass Media: Setting The Nigerian Agenda’ By John Momoh

THE MASS MEDIA: SETTING THE NIGERIAN AGENDA

PAPER PRESENTED BY

MR. JOHN MOMOH (OON)
CHAIRMAN, CHANNELS TELEVISION
AT THE FIRST LECTURE SERIES OF UNILAG
MASS COMMUNICATION ALUMNI ASSOCIATION

I am very pleased to be here today at the invitation of the UNILAG Mass Communication Alumni Association, to speak on a very vexed topic; The Mass Media:  Setting The Nigerian Agenda.  I’d like to thank the Alumni Association, and in particular its President, High Chief Lawson Omokhodion, for considering me worthy to deliver this lecture.

As one who is privileged to have passed through this great department, even more so this great institution, I consider it a rare privilege and particularly delighted to be the first to speak at this series, on a subject which has become my pre-occupation at least career wise.

Theoretical Grounding

Theoretically, the agenda setting theory of the media as put forward by Maxwell McCombs and Donaki Shaw (1972) during their very influential research on the role of the media in the  1968 US Presidential elections, observe that:

In choosing and displaying news, editors, newsroom staff, and broadcasters play an important part in shaping political reality.  Readers learn not only about a given issue, but also how much importance to attach to that issue from the amount of information in a news story and its position […] the mass media may well determine the important issues – that is, the media may set the “agenda” of the campaign.

Overtime, the Agenda Setting Theory research has demonstrated that the more stories the news media do on a particular subject, the more importance audience attach to that subject.  In relation to AST, Stanley Baran holds that the “media may not tell us what to think, but media certainly tell us what to think about” (2002).  He further argues that the agenda setting power of the media resides in more than the amount of space or time devoted to a story and its placement in the broadcast or on the page.

It’s now more than four decades since the publication of the original agenda-setting article by Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw; 43 years to be precise.  It is truly inspiring to take a step back and ponder at what that simple little study comparing a few media … agendas with the … agendas of 100 undecided Chapel Hill voters has led to.

The latest estimate is that there around 500 published articles on agenda setting, not to mention hundreds of conference papers and numerous books and book chapters.  In addition, the domain or focus of agenda-setting research has moved beyond politics and public affairs to the world of business, sports, the economy, education, health and entertainment; and the methods used in such studies have gone far beyond the simple rank-order correlations, between media and public –agenda.

The theory’s central claim as stated earlier is that the media focus the public’s attention and influence the public’s perceptions of what are the important issues of the day.  Whether you agree or disagree with this claim depends on what school of thought you belong to.  After all, the original McCombs and Shaw agenda setting study focused on four local sources – The New York Times, Time Magazine Newsreel, NBC and CBS.  So you can understand why critics of the theory are quick to emphasize that in a digital world such as we now find ourselves, the fundamentals have changed and the theory may not remain viable.

Such critics argue that people now get their news from a finite number of news outlets, run by professional gatekeepers, with shared news values.  As the numbers of news outlets increases the advance for them shrink. Therefore, the assumption of a unified media agenda has become problematic.  In other words, as the audience gains more control over what news services it will use, the audience will likely seek services that support their point of view.

But let’s put aside the academics and focus on the Nigerian Media and how they set or do not set the agenda for the public.

Nigeria’s media landscape is perhaps the most vibrant in Africa.  The nation has about 350 broadcast stations made up of 170 television stations and 150 Radio Stations, each of them with about 80% population coverage.  There are also cable and direct-to-home satellite offerings, the print media which has 150 national and local press titles, and the internet. So far, the internet and the World Wide Web cannot set an agenda, primarily because the audience remains small, and many online publications depend on major brand names as the primary sources of information.

Therefore, the broadcast outlets and newspapers that operate the websites still maintain control of the setting of the journalistic agendas and the public debate. Even at that, online journalism stands to dramatically alter the traditional role of the reporter and editor.

First, online journalism places far more power in the hands of the user, allowing the reader to challenge the traditional role of the publication as the gatekeeper of news and information.  The user can depend on the gatekeeper to select and filter the news or the user can drill down to the basic documents of a story.

Second, online journalism opens up new ways of storytelling, primarily through text, audio, video, and photographs—unlike other media.

And third, online journalism can provide outlets for nontraditional means of news and information.  As A. J. Leibling once said: “Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one”. The internet enables everyone who owns a computer to have his or her own printing press.  But the audience for news and information on the internet and the World Wide Web remains small.

Be that as it may, “unlike the twentieth-century media environment, in which media largely was limited to traditional media entities, 21st Century Media options are endless, captured by the economic metaphor of the long tail. The Long Tail is a phrase coined by Chris Anderson, in 2004; in which he argued that products that are in low demand or have low sales volume can collectively make up a market share that rivals or exceeds the relatively few current best sellers and blockbusters, but only if the store or distribution channel is large enough.  Citizens can now opt to be creators and or distributors.

They now curate the web in large numbers for interesting content sharing links and other newsworthy information out in the confines of newsroom home pages and within the digital world such as blogs, twitter and social networking sites (Meraz, 2012).  Consequently, traditional media is no longer capable of leveraging complete media agenda setting influence, which in effect means that Agenda setting power is also influenced by external forces, who constantly seek to put their own agenda in the front burner, now shared between citizen media and traditional media.

For Nigerians who painstakingly watched the setting and the general atmosphere at INEC’S press conference in Abuja, on February the 7th, 2015, the methods, intricacies and critical tools of news reporting could not have gone unnoticed. Individuals with certain skills and an array of equipment crowded up the whole space all day-long for a singular purpose; to receive or extract the final word from the leadership of the electoral body and to disseminate the information to the wider public.

When the press conference finally got underway, observers must have had further insights into processes leading to the final product i.e the news (whether in print or broadcast, social media or Internet). In the question and answer session when the INEC Chairman had to explain some knotty issues, it was evident that journalists carry out pre-event investigations and research and are able to elicit information or commitments that could bring some issues to closure.

In the aftermath of that press conference, the newspapers, magazines, radios, television channels, social media and the internet were awash with stories and news analysis, as well as features. All of them the product of the labour of news reporters.

From several other beats (Business, Capital Market, Energy, Environment, Metro, Sports, etc), stories – exclusive and otherwise – sourced by other reporters competed for airtime in the news bulletins or space on the pages of newspapers, with prominence accorded those with the greatest ‘impact’ and immediacy, among other considerations.

What the reading public and viewers found in the many and diverse news of February the 8th, 2015 were not just stories deriving from the presentation by Professor Jega and the question and answer segment but also ‘stories behind the news’. The same has to be said about virtually all other news reports in the editions of that day or any other, with the exception of interviews.

In the letters and opinion pages of the print media, phone-ins on radio and television, Twitter handles and other platforms, reactions of members of the public at home and abroad, deluged with facts and data, are regularly published. And public discourse is enriched. But you know what? even though the seed for the agenda setting was sown several week earlier  at Chatham House by the National Security Adviser to the President, the Nigerian media did well to bring out more issues to the public domain- Jega’s purported sack, IDPs, North East and the elections and Boko Haram.

Why all this media attention, you may want to ask? Because media attention is one of the most potent resources in the political system.  Indeed, it has the power to move people, and even nations.  As the INEC press conference illustrates, attention can mean the difference between ignorance and action, between silence and solution.

In the National Assembly, attention is what distinguishes policy problems that are addressed from those that remain in disrepair.  In the courts, attention is what distinguishes the judicial precedence that are deliberated from those that are left unquestioned.  And so in the context of the subject matter of this gathering, news media attention is what distinguishes the events and related policy issues that become matters of media discussion from those that go unnoticed.

Let’s take Channels News at Ten and Three national newspapers, The Punch, The Guardian and Thisday.

These programme and Newspapers are largely representative of other national news outlets across the country and by some accounts help to lead national news coverage.  Each day, the issues captured on Channels News and the front pages of these newspapers send signals to politicians and citizens alike about which problems are important and which are not.

So, indeed, media attention can shape public opinion, governmental attention, and public policy (Dearing & Rogue 1996, Iyengar& Kender 1987; McComb 2004). Without media attention, Policy needs generally have slim chances of garnering public endorsement, financial support, or legislative action (Cobb & Elde’s 1983)

So, if media attention is important …….. I mean, really important as I have made it, the question then is by which mechanism does media attention get distributed, such that some stories get the five star treatment, while other receive a scant amount of front-page coverage or, in most cases no coverage at all.  Why for instance will the possession or non-possession of a school certificate by the APC Presidential Candidate get front page treatment, while the rot in the nation’s primary schools across the country does not get any attention.

Why is it so important to give prominence to the tirades of the spokesmen of the two leading political parties while nothing is said about the state of the country’s economy.  Why black out the atrocities committed by Boko Haram and skew the story about the kidnapping of the Chibok girls to suggest a phantom event, and instead give prominence to government contracts.  The questions are endless, so too are the answers.

But, the Big question is – What Forces Drive The News? 

The process of making news is messy and complex, with many moving parts.  Although, it isn’t possible for us to account for all the factors that determine the news on any given day, we can point to systemic forces that affect how news outlets and the people who run them behave.

Like many other institutions, the media is shaped by specific incentives that derive from its formal rules and informal norms of operation.

Three scholarly frameworks have been identified in a bit to explain the news generation process. First, from the journalistic perspective in the “organizational process” approach, which focuses on how journalists and editors respond to professional incentives by using specific mechanisms, such as new judgment and elite indexing, in order to sort through each day’s inflow of events and generate the day’s news.

Second is the “Market Place” approach which explains how competition-based incentives dramatically shape newsroom operations and therefore, the stories that make the news. In particular, these market place incentives drive news outlets to distribute their service resources in such a way, and to mimic the behavior of other news outlets in such a way, that media coverage is strongly driven by path dependencies.

I add a third approach called The “ Pied Piper” approach, which is basically that the man who owns the media, influences to a large extent what is reported as the day’s news.  You only need to look at the government controlled print and electronic media and some of the media proprietors in the private sector to understand this.

Conclusion

Let me conclude by saying that the Nigerian media should endeavor to re-focus its attention on the issues of poverty reduction, addressing youth restiveness, education, the economy, unemployment and security.

If I may borrow the words of Osakwe Stevenson Omoera of Ambrose Ali University in his work titled “Towards Redefining The News Agenda In The Nigerian Media For National Development” Osakwe posits, that The Nigerian media must begin to de-emphasize mere routine reportage of news that pander to the whims and caprices of selfish political leaders at various levels of government in Nigeria.

It should also be part of setting the agenda for development for the Nigerian media to do more of investigative journalism in order to keep both public and private individuals and organisations on their toes to achieve set deliverables.  A situation where high profile corruption cases such as the Julius Berger, fuel subsidy heist, Siemens, Halliburton and banking sector scandals remain largely unresolved does not inspire any confidence in the system and must be avoided.

THE END.

Media Should Take Pride In Agenda Setting – John Momoh

john_momohThe Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of Channels Television, Mr. John Momoh has urged the Nigeria media to take pride in discharging its foremost role in nation building by taking the forefront of agenda setting.

He said this while delivering a keynote address; titled; ‘Mass Media; Setting The Nigerian Agenda’ at the 1st Distinguished Lecture Series, organised by the University of Lagos Mass Communication Alumni Association.

The event took place at the Afe Babalola auditorium within the school premises.

“Media attention can shape public opinion” Mr Momoh said.

He further noted that “Without media attention, policy needs generally have slim chances of garnering public endorsement, financial support or legislative action.

“So, if media attention is important, the question then is, by which mechanism does media attention gets distributed such that some stories get the five star treatment, while others receive a scant amount of front page coverage or in most cases, no coverage at all”, Mr Momoh asked.

At the lecture, which was well attended by members of the academia, several other speakers stressed the need for media practitioners to remain faithful to their roles as watch dogs in the society.

In their submissions, Professors Ralph Afinfeleye and Wale Omole noted that some media practitioners have abandoned their posts as watch dogs and have been infected with ‘rabies’.

Fight Against Corruption: Jonathan Commissions Auditor-General’s Office

The Federal Government has resolved to strengthen the office of the Auditor-General to give it more impetus in the fight against corruption.

President Goodluck Jonathan gave the indication while commissioning the headquarters complex of the Auditor-General of the Federation’s office in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

The President   decried a situation where a national accountability institution like the Auditor-General would be allowed to operate from a three bed room apartment, a situation not befitting to its image.

He commended the National Assembly for the audit bill and the relevant constitutional amendment that would strengthen the Auditor-General’s office for the good of Nigeria.

The President said that he granted the request by the National Assembly for the acquisition of the new building that was commissioned, believing that the Auditor-General needs a conducive working environment to discharge the important work in the fight against corruption.

The commissioning attracted the FCT Minister, Bala Mohammed, and some Nigerian lawmakers who asserted that the auditors were the first line of defence in the fight against corruption, even before one gets to the EFCC and other anti-corruption agencies.

The Auditor-General, Samuel Ukura and his staff expressed joy at the commissioning. He said that henceforth, Nigerians should expect international best practices in their operations.

The Auditor-General of the Federation, Samuel Ukura, noted that by providing the building, the President has sharpened the teeth of the Auditors-General to bite, and that they would do, not minding whose ox is gored in the fight against corruption in Nigeria.

Sanusi’s Suspension: There Is Need For Court Interpretation – Oyefeso

A Financial Lawyer, Tilawa Oyefeso, has thrown his weight behind suspended CBN Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi’s resolve to seek court interpretation on the legality of his suspension by President Goodluck Jonathan.

Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, played host to Mr Oyefeso, 24 hours after the suspension of the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria was announced.

He called for caution on the way the issue of Mr Lamido Sanusi’s suspension as the Central Bank Governor should be approached, considering that the directive by the Nigerian President was referred to as a suspension, which is different from a removal.

He said, “Suspension is an abeyance of certain rights that an individual possesses; it doesn’t necessarily mean a demotion. So, essentially that he was suspended doesn’t mean he was removed.”

However, he expressed his grouse on what seems like noncompliance with provisions of the CBN Act, particularly Section 8, which deals with the appointment of a CBN Governor and the provisions of Sections 9, 10 and 11 which deals also with his removal.

“The appointment of the CBN Governor is done by the President, subject to confirmation by the Senate, like wise his removal can also be done by the President, but subject to two third of the majority of the Senate. So when the President suspends the CBN Governor, the question arises, does he have the powers to do that?” He said.

He also shared the view that there was need for the interpretation of the court, as the President’s action looks more like a removal to him, in view of the immediate nomination of a new CBN Governor by the President. He feared Mr Sanusi might win in the court of law.

Oyefeso also explained the legal framework for the role of Government in performing administrative functions to carry out a suspension. He said that when there is such suspension, the right of the individual only seizes for a moment. So, essentially, Mr Sanusi was still the CBN Governor but only with a new title – the suspended CBN Governor.

He further said that in other parts of the world, the President of the country would not in any way interfere in the functions of the Central Bank. Therefore, Nigerians should not personalize things as emphasis should be on the office and not the occupant as stipulated by the law.

He, however, admitted that the office of the CBN Governor was indeed too strong in Nigeria. He cited the effect that Mr Lamido Sanusi’s suspension had had on the economy within 24 hours of its announcement.

2013 In Review: Journalist Approves Performance Of Social Media

The Former Director, Voice of Nigeria, Gabriel Omohinmi, on Friday gave kudos to the social media for breaking the major news stories which dominated the media in the year 2013 but faulted the traditional news media for not performing up to expectation.

Speaking on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, Mr Omohinmi expressed disappointment in the performance of the traditional news media (print, television and radio) despite the enabling atmosphere  Goodluck Jonathan’s administration has created for practitioners. “We’ve actually not had problems with this present administration,” he said and added that “they have been very fair. They have allowed the Press to express themselves.”

According to the seasoned journalist, “the Nigerian media has not done well. We are not doing well. The traditional media is not performing the duties (that is) expected of them” because major stories in 2013 including the controversial letter exchange between former president Olusegun Obasanjo and President Jonathan, were broken by online based media.

This new trend is an indication that “people no longer trust media-men,” he said, adding that, “credibility is the basis of journalism practice.”

In the case of the call for Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah’s sack, Omohinmi said that journalists attached to the Presidency and the House of Representatives have not done their jobs as they should have obtained and published copies of the committees investigating the matter.

He also faulted the Minister for asking a journalist, Simon Ateba, to go back to school, after questioning her about House of Representatives’ call for her sack or resignation.

“Was it the duty of the minister for aviation to do that? Where are the reporters at the National Assembly? Why is it that they’ve not been able to get a copy of the report?”

He further mentioned that cases of journalists having romantic relationships with public officers in the beat they cover,  must stop as it is unprofessional.

“We must demand more from our reporters. They are not doing what is expected.”

Editorial policies of news organisations should be the guiding principle for journalists who are posted on assignments but “majority of them are out to see how much money they can make.” “Every media organisation is expected to have its own code of ethics that guides its own employees,” he said.

Omohinmi stated that the government owned media can perform much better than what they are doing now but the problem lies within the journalists and appointed officials who carry out “self-censorship” in favour of top government officers.

“I was in Voice of Nigeria, there was no time any minister will come and say this is what you take in our news.

“I remember during the MKO Abiola saga and Uche Chukwumerije was busy issuing out statements and I told them I was the news editor, I said No, I can’t carry this and I stood by it.

“My director of news came and said I was suspended and I said all well and good, I’m ready to go… I was suspended for one week but finally they brought me back and said what I did was quite professional.”

He advised that media organisations should establish their credibility in order to avoid external interference in their operations. “Do what is expected of you. Be credible and let the audience know that, is your only source,” he said.