1.1 Background of Study
The Nigeria Mass Media have played significant roles in the pursuit, attainment and sustenance of democracy, right from the colonial era through the Military regime to the current political dispensation in Nigeria. The partisan political colouration of the media incapacitated and prevented them from performing their functions of educating, informing and entertaining the public. The veracity of the media and the credibility of their practitioners became questionable. This was one of the factors that contributed to the fall of the Second Republic in December 1983 (Olayiwola 1991, P40). Political leaders such as Chief ObafemiAwolowo and NnamdiAzikwe used regional Television stations such as Western Nigeran Television and Eastern Nigeria Television respectively, to pass their messages across to the electorates (BiolaOjenike 2002: 27). Rahman (1991, P3) also notes that the transition programmes which culminated in the advent of Nigeria's Second Republic involved public discussions highlighted by the Nigerian press. Apart from the military leaders' acknowledgement of mass media responsibility for interpreting and informing the electorate of the issues, the 1979 Constitution also required special obligations from the press on FundameAITl Objectives and Directive Principles of state policy. In 2011, the former President Goodluck Jonathan and the People’s Democratic Party made extensive use of mass media campaign to secure people’s mandate in the then political news program. The same Government used mass media in defending its position on subsidy removal of the Petroleum Motor Spirit (PMS) following a nation- wide protest against the move. The success of the campaign was evidenced in Nigerians’ acceptance of government’s stand concerning theissue.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the mass media contribute immensely to the sustenance of democratic process all over the world (Ehiwario 2011, P79). The mass media generally and television in particular, performs various roles which include the following: information dissemination, status conferral, education, public enlightenment to mention a few. The members of the audience depend on the mass media to detect errors and wrongdoings in the political and social circle of society Ezekiel Asemah (2011, P39). (Ehiwario 2011, P79) cited Kelliner (2004) who shared McQual (1993) view when he opined that ‘it is therefore reasonable to require that the media operate to certain standards with respect to these functions especially as our democratic society rests on the assumption that they do’. Gurevitch and Blumler (1990, P254) advanced the most important democratic functions that the media are expected to perform as: surveillance of socio-political developments, identifying the most relevant issues, providing platform for debate across a diverse range of views, holding officials accountable for the way they exercise their power, provide incentives for citizens to learn, choose and become involved in the political process and resist efforts of forces outside the media to subvert their independence.
It is quite unfortunate that there is palpable fear that the media have been failing in the aforementioned functions by taking sides with politicians especially during political or electioneering campaign. Commercial interests of media owners have been observed to have replaced objectivity which is one of the cardinal ethics of journalism in the coverage of political process. Kelliner (2004, P84) put it this way: “commercial mass media controlled by a few multinational conglomerates have been identified as anti-democratic forces supporting the status quo”. Election has always been regarded as the medium through which people (electorates) choose their leaders. The import of the above is that the mass media play very crucial roles in the
political as well as social development of human society. Abati (2007, P7) paraphrases one time American President, Thomas Jefferson who summed up the indispensability of the media in the art and science of governance. Jefferson made a strong case for the media withparticular emphasis on newspaper this way: “the basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether to have a government without newspaper or newspaper without a government, I should not hesitate to a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that everyman should receive those papers and be capable of reading them”. On a higher realm, the media set agenda for good governance (Okhakhu and Ate 2011:41).
The role of the Press in a nation’s body polity cannot be over emphasized. It is in the light of this essential role of the media that this study seeks to measure how television audiences in Nigeria perceive the performance of the African Independent Television (AIT), public owned tv station and Channels Television, a privately owned tv station, in their coverage of political news program inNigeria.
1.2 Statement ofProblem
The Mass media, regarded as the fourth estate of the realm in Nigeria and the rest parts of the world, are being used as tools for achieving selfish interest by the political elites in recent times. Besides, the mass media in recent times are wrongly used by politicians to pass political messages that are highly derogatory and imbued with falsehood across to the electorates instead of giving them (electorates) correct, concise and complete information during electioneering campaign. Media ethics are now being sacrificed on the altar of political appointments and financial gains. The quest for huge advertisement account acquisition and sustenance takes
precedence over public interest and social responsibility in most Nigeria Mass Media.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Mass Media are saddled with the responsibility of holding public office holders accountable to the public. The manners at which these public office holders and political institutions use the mass media to pursue their goals have become worrisome to many Nigerians at home and in the diaspora. While it is believed in some quarters that the ruling class use government owned media to project their political ideology and actualize government policies, some who are not part of the ruling class see private media as a means of reaching their goals.
However, the situation in the 2015 election campaign in Nigeria was far beyond the above dichotomy in media use. Observable trends in media use in 2015, right from electioneering campaign to the end of the elections expose audience members to abuse of media ethics resulting in loss of trust in media messages. This is as a result of different shades of hate communications emerging from the media. The hate communication came inform of documeAITries, advertising and many other derogatory programmes aim at ridiculing opposing parties, a situation that was capable of plunging the nation into a civil unrest. The foregoing accusation against the media is evidenced in the audience’s loss of confidence in most Nigeria mass media as sources and purveyors of political information or at least skepticism they (audiences) express when some of the mass media are mentioned in relation to a particular story. One begins to wonder whether journalism ethical principles of objectivity, fairness, independence and truthfulness have become old-fashioned and irrelevant in Nigeria. Critical question plaguing the mind of many is; is there no control mechanism for media performance in political reporting? Against this backdrop, this study will forage into audience perception of AIT and Channels television reportage of the political news program inNigeria.
1.3 Objectives of Study
The general objective of the study is to examine the performance of the Nigerian mass media in promoting and sustaining democracy via electoral coverage in the country. The specific objectives of the study include:
1. To determine audience level of exposure to AIT and Channels TV coverage of the political news programeeringcampaign?
2. To ascertain the audience perception of the level of coverage of the political news program by AIT and ChannelsTV.
3. To examine the level of objectivity displayed by AIT and Channels tv in the reportage of the political news program.
4. To determine the level of influence of political campaign messages on the audience as reported in AIT andChannels.
1. What is the audience’s level of exposure to AIT and Channels’ TV coverage of the political news program?
2. What is the audience perception of the level of coverage of the political news programby AIT and ChannelsTV?
3. What level of objectivity was displayed by AIT and Channels in the reportage of political news program?
4. What is the level of influence of political campaign messages on the audience as reported by AIT and ChannelsTV?
1.5 Significance ofStudy
The study is significant in three ways. First, it will help professional journalists and other media operators to know what is needed to be done to win audience acceptance of their stations.
Secondly, the study will go a long way in contributing to the body of knowledge in human and political communication. The study will help politicians in their selection of media vehicles that have high credibility to convey their messages to theelectorates.
Scholars will find it useful in augmenting their knowledge whenever the need arises. It is also of benefit in developing theoretical framework for media scholars. It will be of help when there is a need for testing theories.
1.6 Scope of Study
This study shall cover the whole Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The choice of this scope is informed by the strategic role the City plays in the political life of Nigeria as the seat of power and administrative centre of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is also strategic to knowing the true representative view of Nigerians as the FCT houses every other component states. The city is made up of Six Area Councils which shall be duly represented in the study. The study also focuses on two televisions stations; the African Independent Television and Channels Television. These two stations are used to represent Government owned television stations and private televisionstations.
1.7 Limitation ofStudy
The study is confronted by a number of challenges which include the following:
The first and most nagging challenge is the shortage of research assistance. Inadequate research assistants who can help in administering and collection of copies of questionnaire serve as an impediment to the study.
The nature of respondents’ job in Abuja is another limiting factor of the study. Most of the respondents leave their homes as early as possible and return very late as a result of traffic. This makes retrieval of copies of the questionnairedifficult.
The size of Abuja Metropolis is another inhibiting factor that may affect the study. Most respondents live in satellite towns making it difficult to locate them.
However, studies have shown that there is no problem without a solution; it is in light of this that the researcher strategizes means of crossing all frontiers in the course of the research work. The researcher seeks to solicit the assistance of friends in collating and interpreting the data gathered to bridge the gap created by limited research assistants. The researcher also plans to meet respondents in their respective offices so as to administer and retrievequestionnaires.
1.8 Operational Definition ofTerms
Operational definition of terms shall be provided on the following: audience, Perception, coverage and election, as deployed in the study. This will enable whoever may want to make use of the findings of the study understand it without any stress.
An audience is a group of people who participate in a show or encounter a work of art, literature (in which they are called "readers"), theatre, music (in which they are called "listeners"), video games (in which they are called "players"), or academics in any medium. Whether we are watching TV, surfing the Internet, listening to our iPods, or reading a novel, we are all engaged with media as a member of an audience. Audience members participate in different ways in different kinds of art; some events invite overt audience participation and others allowing only modest clapping and criticism andreception.
Perception is our sensory experience of the world around us and involves both the recognition of environmeAITl stimuli and actions in response to these stimuli. Throughthe perceptual process, we gain information about properties and elements of the environment that are critical to our survival. Perception not only creates our experience of the world around us; it allows us to act within our environment. The perceptual process allows us to experience the world around us. It also includes what is known as ‘proprioception’, a set of senses involving the ability to detect changes in body positions and movements. It also involves the cognitive processes required to process information, such as recognizing the face of a friend or detecting a familiarscent
The Perceptual Process
The perceptual process is a sequence of steps that begins with the environment and leads to our perception of a stimulus and an action in response to the stimulus. This process is continual, but you do not spend a great deal of time thinking about the actual process that occurs when you perceive the many stimuli that surround you at any given moment.
Perception doesn't just involve becoming consciously aware of the stimuli. It is also necessary for our brain to categorize and interpret what it is we are sensing. Our ability to interpret and give meaning to the object is the next step, known as recognition. The recognition stage is an essential part of perception since it allows us to make sense of the world around us. By placing objects in meaningful categories, we are able to understand and react to the world aroundus.
The final step of the perceptual process involves some sort of action in response to the environmeAITl stimulus. This could involve a variety of actions, such as turning your head for a closer look or turning away to look at something else.
The action phase of perceptual development involves some type of motor action that occurs in response to the perceived and recognized stimulus. This might involve a major action, like running toward a person in distress, or something as subtle as blinking your eyes in response to a puff of dust blowing through the air.
Coverage means the act of reporting a news story or event in the newspaper, radio or television with a view to informing the public about the same. It refers to media attention giving to an occurrence of happening in order to bring it to public domain.
Election has commonly come to be known as the process of choosing one, two or more people from amongst a number of contestants through voting with the aim of forming a government in an organization, or society.
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