The Mass media in any society are regarded as the purveyors of national cultures which they transmit from generation to generation. One of the means through which this activity is carried out is by the news gathering and dissemination function of the mass media. In a situation where news selection and presentation is based on material gratifications instead of public goals and interest, stands against the ethics of the profession, it is anti-public unity and development. It is against this backdrop that this study examines the level of news commercialization in Asaba Delta State. In handling the study, three (3) research questions were put forward and they includes; To what extent do media organization in Asaba commercialization their news? What are the dimensions of news commercialization in media organization? What are the public or audience perceptions of news commercialization? The structured questionnaires were used for the collection of data from 120 respondents. The data were analyzed through the use of simple percentage method of data analysis which in turn gave birth to the following major findings that shows That there is low audience patronage of news media when compared to prior news commercialization era, That news producers in Asaba media organization have neglected their social responsibility of objective reporting in place of financial gain and other personal interest. That media organization commercialized news by charging officially before news event is covered. That majority of the respondents perceived news commercialization in Asaba as a means of generating money for industries. Broadcast media is more objective compared to the print media. That most of the respondent trust and prefer the broadcast medium to the prints. Based on the findings it was therefore recommended that; Media organizations instead of selling news should think of other sources of revenue like investments if it is private stations and increased funding in the case of government stations. The broadcast and print media in Nigeria should endeavor to refrain from news commercialization; the news should not be based on the amount of money one has to pay; instead, it should be based on the newsworthiness of the event. Relevant regulatory agencies should add more bite to their operations. They should go beyond publishing and re-publishing of codes by ensuring that the media houses are compelled to comply with the ethic of the profession in the interest, unity and development of the countrthe media managers and practitioners should also act as gate-keepers who should develop media content/messages based on our culture and locally accepted norms, that the government should check the activities of the media industries to ensure the messages they pass meet moral societal taste.
BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
In recent media practice, news is increasingly becoming a commodity valued for its role in informing or persuading the public on political, social, cultural and economic issues. Thus, in modern media practice, news is commercialised to the extent that only the rich get their ideas communicated to the members of the public. This in turn, affects objectivity in mass media, both in the print and electronic media, thereby, negatively impacting on democracy.
The term mass media according to McQuail (2000) is shortened to describe means of communication that operates on a large scale, reaching and involving virtually everyone in a society to a greater or lesser degree. Media is plural of medium, which means a channel or vehicle through which something is carried or transmitted. In other words, mass media are channels of communication in a modern society, primarily the print and the electronic media. McQuail further describes the mass media as the organized means for communicating openly and at a distance to many receivers within a short space of time. The mass media are impersonal communication sources that reach large audiences. The primary function of the mass media system is to provide information to several millions of people. The mass media are extremely influential. Each of the media is presumed to affect perceptions and behaviour in a distinctive way. They can affect the society and vice versa. The mass media are the uniquely modern means of public communication and much of their importance lies in the fact that they are a major cause of whatever modes of perception, thought, public discourse, and political action. Because of their size and the large number of people they reach, the mass media have tremendous impact on society. Murphy (1977) cited by Udomisor and Kenneth (2013), sums up societal impacts of the media in different ways as oil, glue and dynamite.
As oil, Murphy asserts that media of communication keep the world running smoothly by helping individuals adjust to the reality of lives. They keep society on and healthy by suggesting solutions that are socially acceptable.
As glue, social cohesion is maintained by communication. Murphy contends that the media gives all of us including strangers something to talk about by setting agenda of discussion. And that over the years, communication builds up and reinforces the fabrics that hold a society together.
Murphy also describes the mass media as dynamites that can rip the society apart. A good example of this is the propaganda campaigns that preceded the Russian Revolution in 1917 and Hitler’s rise to the German Chancellorship in 1933. Similarly, the mass media particularly the newspapers and magazines played a tremendous role in the struggle for Nigeria’s independence in 1960.
The mass media can be broadly classified into two –the print media and the electronic media. The classification is carried out according to the mechanism involved in the process of conveying messages.
The Print Media
The print media have a mechanism that depends on printing items of information. These include newspapers, magazines, books, pamphlets and comics that carry messages to the populace by appealing to their sense of sight.
One common thing about the print media is that they involve the pressing of ink on paper using plates and blocks, and special machines. The print media includes books, newspapers and magazines. Books are the oldest medium of mass communication whereas the newspapers are the first popular mass medium. For the purpose of this course, more emphasis would be placed on newspapers and magazines.
(a) Newspaper A newspaper in terms of format can be categorized into two:
ii. Standard size
Tabloid is the common newspaper that is found in Nigeria. The Sun, Nigerian Tribune, The Hope and most state owned newspapers are tabloids. The standard size is large and takes two size of a tabloid. It is usually found in the U.S, Britain and other advance countries of the world. In Nigeria, This Day, is a good example of the standard size newspapers.
There are many types of magazines, namely:
i. General Interest Magazine This is also known as mass magazine. It focuses on the activities of the masses. General interest magazines contain more credible stories than fiction. The nature of such magazine is large circulation particularly in diversified or heterogeneous society.
ii. SpecializedMagazine This is designed for specialized people, written in specialized language and directed at specialized group of people. Examples of specialized magazine include, Nigerian Medical Journal, Pharmaceutical Journal, etc.
iii. Literary or Class Magazine
This type of magazine is usually written in a very literary style for highly educated or sophisticated members of the society. The content is usually on literature, arts, agriculture etc. Examples are Readers Digest, The Economist, Awake, Africa Today, etc.
iv. Junk (Soft Sell) Magazine
These magazines are designed for general public but are usually designed in low quality. They are very unreliable in terms of concrete and accurate information. They thrive on rumour and have more pictures than stories. Here, you have magazines like Ecomium, Hints, Ovation, etc whose stock in trade is sensational or yellow journalism.
The Electronic Media
The electronic media use devices that can transform or change sound or light waves into electrical signals, which are reconverted to things that can be heard or seen on radio or television. The electronic media technique can be divided into production, transmission and reception. The electronic media according to Daramola (2003) include:
i. Radio and audio recordings that appeal to the sense of sound
ii. Television, motion pictures and video recordings that appeal to both sense of sound and that of sight. There is a marked difference in the technologies of radio and television particularly with reference to receiver-transmitter relationships or both. While the radio receiver is built to detect and amplify signals, television receiver goes beyond that. It must also carry out the precisely timed scanning sequence in exact synchronism with the camera. The transmitter and receiver of the television must operate on the same line and field frequencies.(Daramola, 2003 ).
The broadcast media are the most powerful in the world today for affecting the minds, emotions and even the actions of mankind. No wonder, a onetime American critic, William Rivers once described the broadcast media as great “mentioners” (Akpede, 1994 cited in Udomisor and Kenneth (2013). This means they have the power to build and destroy an individual or an institution as the case may be.
Information management is a crucial issue in the practice of modern democracy. It must be made readily available to both leaders and the populace; as this will enhance the exchange and cross-fertilisation of ideas between the stakeholders and the populace. There should not be only a free flow of information, but adequate and accurate information about the people, their needs and aspirations, their environment, their ambitions, their anxieties, etc., so that projects and programme activities will be tailored to fit or meet the yearnings of the people. This is the principal role played by the media in any given society.
The mass media thus, are tools for mass communication which have unique responsibilities to keep members of the society informed, educated and entertained, It is through the mass media that the society gets to know what is happening within and around the country and react accordingly. The basic functions of the mass media, according to Lasswell in Udomisor and Kenneth (2013) is to act as the society’s watchdog, they are expected to mount surveillance over the environment and correlate the components of the society to ensure effective functioning of the system which will assist in the transmission of the social heritage from generation to generation. In carrying out these functions, the mass media make use of several methods of collecting and disseminating information which include straight news reporting, interpretative reporting and investigative reporting (Bo Daniel and Nyitse, T.2009).
In Nigeria, the roles of journalists in the affairs of the nation is constitutionally recognized in section 21, sub section 150 of the 1979 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It states that the press must uphold the aims and objectives of Nigeria as a nation and that the press must ensure that all organs of government (Legislature, Executives and Judiciary,) upholds these aims and objectives and perform the duties imposed on them in furtherance of nation building; the press must hold the Government accountable to the people in the performance of its duties and responsibilities to ensure that the aim and objective of nation building are realized.
The above provision recognizes and consequently assigns certain functions to the Nigerian media as partners in progress. In 1992, the Babangida military administration de-regulated the Broadcast industry, so as to usher in more participation and ensure more pluralistic views. The basic aim of this policy thrust was to empower those people who hitherto did not have access to the government owned media, for any reason, so that they will have the opportunity to express their views and opinions on national and topical issues. There is a general recognition of the fact that journalists have responsibilities toward the public. These responsibilities may include: contractual responsibility in relation to the media and their internal organization; a social responsibility obligations towards public opinion and society as a whole; responsibility or liability deriving from the obligation to comply with the law; and the responsibility towards national and international communities, to ensure acceptable values, (Ugwuanyi :2005).
The media perform these functions in furtherance of their responsibilities to the general public. But a situation whereby media practitioners perform their duties based on financial promptings and reward negate the ethic and objectives of the profession.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The production of and presentation of news items originally has been based on the level of newsworthy of news item in question. Also it was guided by what is ethical in journalism profession and according to the house style of the organization (Asogwa, C.E. and Asemah E. S. 2012)
The producers of news items would go out to source for news, and when they return they would write news stories objectively. They were always careful not to include in their own side stories to the stories, or let anything tamper with the fact they have gotten from the field. To this the media enjoy a high level of credibility among its audience (Asogwa, C.E. and Asemah E. S. 2012).
However, some serious questions readily come to mind at this juncture. With the introduction of news commercialization as a measure of improving the financial standing of the organization, have news producers remained objective? Does the channel still enjoy the confidence of the audience? Does it still maintain the audience level it had before news commercialization?
News commercialization has affected the principle of news packages as a humanitarian service. This has led the sponsors of news stories having some measures of control over the station. This they do through the understanding that their news stories take precedence over unpaid ones.
As stated by Raph Efiong (1999:70) the implication of commercializing news in the Nigeria media has effect on the media credibility and consequences on the citizen’s participatory rights in the communication media.
In the light of this background, the central problem of this study is to identify the level of news commercialization among mass media (newspaper, magazine, radio and television) in Asaba Delta State, Nigeria.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The purpose of carrying out this research includes the following;
- To determine the presence of news commercialization in media organization in Asaba
- To ascertain the dimension of news commercialization in media organization in Asaba
- To find out public or audience perception toward news commercialization.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
- To what extent do media organization in Asaba commercialization their news?
- What are the dimensions of news commercialization in media organization?
- What are the public or audience perceptions of news commercialization?
1.5 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The aim of this study is to bring to the notice of the media management the impact of their decision to engage in news commercialization.
They will realize that their news packages are not enjoying the confidence of their audience. Also they will have to know that they have not been disseminating adequate amount of information their audience members are expecting through their news packages. The management will later understand that this condition has adversely affected their credibility rating.
The journalists will realize the importance of maintaining their professional standard in mews coverage and writing of news stories. While on the other hand, the audience will start to receive the type of news stories they have been expecting from Nigerian media in Asaba.
It aims at revealing to the media practitioners and broadcast students, the effect of commercialization to the media credibility and professionalism. More so, it will enable the general public to know that some of the news they are listening to and watching is paid for. It is expected that government will see this as disadvantage on the public to have access to quality news and design a way out.
1.6 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
This study is limited to media organizations in Asaba, the capital of delta state, which include prints and broadcast media organization, either government or private owned. It examined the level of news commercialization of these media from the period of 2000 till date. Moreover, study includes the residents from all works of life who live in Asaba, the nerve centre of the state, who receives the signal or assesses these medium in one way or the other.
1.7 DEFINITION OF TERMS
Commercialization: It is a kind of dourness of fund from sales. Where money in generated from something in form of sales. A situation whereby the broadcast media generate income from the news by selling air time for news instead of broadcasting the news based on accepted news values.
News: This is a timely report of an event that is of public interest.
Credibility: Credibility is which can be believed operational definition. Audience acceptance to believe the news contents of the broadcast media.
Objectivity: Not being influenced by personal feelings, ideas, or bias. A state of being influenced by personal feelings or bias.
Level: The amount, number or height of something
Brown Envelope : A means by which news sponsors give money inform of bribe to journalist and editors. Audience view that editors and journalists collect money in terms of bribe from news sponsors, thereby preventing them from carrying out their unique roles unbiased.