Expert Wants Nigerian Media to Re-Invent Itself in Survival Strategy

Expert Wants Nigerian Media to Re-Invent Itself in Survival Strategy

…Advocates Multiple Sources of Revenue, National Media Development Fund …As Ganduje Calls for an Effective, Respected Press Council to Regulate Print Media   A renowned Communications Scholar, Prof Umaru Pate has asked the Nigerian media to re-invent itself and embark on multiple sources of revenue as part of the strategy of survival against the background

…Advocates Multiple Sources of Revenue, National Media Development Fund

…As Ganduje Calls for an Effective, Respected Press Council to Regulate Print Media  

A renowned Communications Scholar, Prof Umaru Pate has asked the Nigerian media to re-invent itself and embark on multiple sources of revenue as part of the strategy of survival against the background of the gloomy economy engendered by Covid-19.

While also calling for government intervention to save the media from collapse, Pate, who’s the vice chancellor, Federal University, Kashere, Gombe State, advocated for the floating of a National Media Fund to salvage the media.

This is coming amid the demand by Kano State Governor, Dr Abdullahi Ganduje for Editors partnership to promote peace and the unity of the country in the face of rising security challenges and the clamour for secession by self determination groups.

Contending that “New media funding models are required,” Pate, a professor of Media History decries “Single source of revenue as not sustainable.” According to him, “the best way to be independent is to be profitable: Diversification is key”

He charged the media to invest in investigative journalism facilities-breaking news, technology and expanding reach

While noting that the Covid-19 crisis will impact on people’s behaviour, businesses, and companies, he wants the media to adjust its editorial and marketing strategies to respond to scenarios as part of sensing the context capability.

“As financial health of traditional media (excluding streaming and social media) is under threat, develop restructuring plans and reduce non-essential costs

“Don’t get trapped in old ways, outdated technologies & neglect of the youth. If you do, they win, you loose.”

Sustainable Funding

Delivering a keynote address at the opening of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) Convention in Kano on Monday, Pate, who was the dean, Post Graduate School, Bayero University, Kano until his appointment as VC, posits that, “Nigeria needs media with independent spirit and mind-set built on sustainable funding and professionally equipped and secured system to protect, promote and project our democracy and its values.”

In the paper titled, “The Media in Covid-19 Era: Challenges and Opportunities,” Pate, also president, Association of Communication Scholars and Practitioners of Nigeria (ACSPN), says,  “The Covid 19 experience should offer us an opportunity to re-invent and redesign media business while still staying true to a coherent and consistent mission.”

He admonishes the media to “avoid battles you cannot win” while urging it to “promote media & digital literacy and critical thinking to fight fake news factories (propaganda & technology)” He also urge it to “Invest in investigative and data driven journalism,” adding that it should “Focus and invest in technology, content and credibility.”

Government Intervention

Arguing that, “This is the time for intervention to salvage the media in our democratisation process,” the former dean, Communication Faculty, Bayero University, Kano, says, “Governments  should appreciate the role of the media (as exemplified by its classification as an essential service during this pandemic), to save journalism as a business that is at the heart of the democracy project.

“That may take the form of carefully thought-through and well-negotiated measures acceptable to the industry in a manner that does not erode credibility and independence of the media (like tax waivers, payment of debts (advertising bills), and better investment in public broadcasters or even lifting license fees for commercial broadcast channels)”

He also wants the setting up of a National Media Development Fund to rescue the media.

Continuing further, Pate says, “The Covid -19 pandemic has profoundly and globally affected every human endeavour by rendering and gradually leaving our societies tense, challenged and even insecure.

“For the media sector in Nigeria and, indeed, globally, the Covid-19 era has hit it hard; devastating and existentially threatening.

“Even before the pandemic in late 2019, the sector in Nigeria has been struggling against challenges like fake news which undermines public confidence in the media, decline in advertising, staff layoffs, welfare and professional safety issues, rise of digital platforms (google) that dominate access (gateway), etc.

“Covid 19 has ruthlessly compounded the predicaments of the media in Nigeria.

“The Coronavirus crisis has led to loss in advertising and sales revenues and other financial earnings for the media, thus, undermining their business model.”

COVID-19 Lockdown

Also discussing the effect of the Covid-19 lockdown, he says, “Because of the need for credible information and entertainment during the lockdown and confinement, people increased time for TV viewing, radio listening and reading of newspapers resulting in renewed interest and added pressure on the media without a corresponding increase in media revenue.

“At a time when people needed critical and credible information, most media houses were hampered by lack of resources to deliver optimally.

“However, the media got the status of frontline workers which speaks to an understanding that their value as bearers of important and verifiable information was recognised as part of the ways of stemming the public health crisis.

“Confinement and social distancing measures have led to the emergence of new television formats like the integration of consumer technologies (zoom, face-time) into programmes created under new conditions.

“Confinement has caused many changes that have accelerated the digital transition of the media particularly broadcasters (readership declined in print but increased online).

This in his view, led to the “Inability of journalists to question structures of power” and the “Growth in online consumption.”

It also saw the “Rise in digital advertising (global advert revenue in 2018 was $558 Billion=above 40% for broadcasting; 8% for newspapers and digital advert (facebook, google, etc) took a chunk of it)

Other hardnuts arising from this include:

“News dilemma: people have vastly more choices at little or no cost

“Many people simply skim headlines

“The commercial future is unclear and uncertain

“Officials became more difficult to access for information, interviews and to confirm stories

Media Outfits

Revealing that about 23 middle and small media outfits closed shop in 2020 alone, Pate who was also head, Department of Mass Communication, University of Maiduguri, disclosed that the reported a peak in the violations of media rights suggesting also that the safety of journalists became a major issue during the Covid-19 period. He also says, “Female journalists in many surveys also spoke of heightened cases of online harassment.”

“Certainly we noticed a massive elevation in misinformation on the evidence produced by”

Urging the media to “Appreciate and respond to the changing context. Prepare to face and confront future of uncertainty with bold strategic and innovative actions,” he suggested rejigging of the following:

  • Credibility and legitimacy of the media (trust, principles, identities, style, engagement, etc)
  • Dynamic management system and smarter newsrooms (for shared objectives)
  • New sustainable funding model: Reinvent and redesign media business while still being coherent and consistent
  • Mainstreaming digital technology and interface (video & audio)
  • Audience development skills (people need to be encouraged)
  • Partnerships and collaborations
  • Safety and welfare of journalists and
  • Promoting the brand

Conflict Sensitive

Also speaking at the NGE Convention, the Kano State Governor, Dr Abdullahi Ganduje implores Editors to enter into the partnership to promote the unity of the country stressing that they should be more conflict-sensitive.

“Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, freedom of the press and observance of press professional conduct are measured as indices of development in any country. Based on my understanding, the Nigerian press is one of the freest, in global context but some obvious professional misconduct in the media has curiously become excessive, in this regard.

“I believe that absence of an influential Press Council that should regulate the print media, specifically has become an institutional weakness that should be tackled without delay. All controversies and litigations that have stalled the emergence of a respectable Press Council should be handled with care.

“There is therefore a sense in which we can say that the world over, self-regulation is not enough for any professional bodies. The question is; who watches over the watchdog too? You can see clearly that the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has made some difference in regulating broadcasting, no matter our criticisms of the regulatory body, which even major broadcasters apologized to the other day.

Peace & Harmony

“Our powerful Editors, this is an opportunity to engage in some introspection about our great country, indeed the most populous black nation on earth. I mean you should lend me your ears for us to talk briefly about the expediency of journalism and nation building at this time. More than ever before, we need to understand these difficult times in our country.

“It is very important at this time that we should use the media for the promotion of peace and stability and change the viewpoints that could alter public views and sentiment toward a more peaceful resolution of our multifaceted current crises. If and only if we as a nation are interested in peace and harmony, we must reject hate propaganda machinery. In the main, this is a time Editors should be conflict-sensitive about our nation.

“In other words, I have a feeling that the crossing of redlines by some media organisations in recent times has impacted on the nation’s unity, harmony and integration.

Collective Pursuit

“Our brave, collective pursuit in uniting this nation, underscores the fact that for as long as we have a common purpose, we will find no obstacle big enough to stop us from marching on. The media and particularly our gatekeepers have a role to play in this regard.

“Besides, this is a time the Editors should exercise the social responsibility you have to your country. Even if the governing authorities in Nigeria are encountering challenges in their strategy to develop the country, it is not enough to join in some fervent advocacy that seeks to beat drums of war to break up this country.

“I would like to appeal to you the Gatekeepers note that there is already some groundswell of opinion, which seems to be building some consensus on the expediency of restructuring the nation. That advocacy should not be confused with rebellious acts of some elements who would like to destabilise our great country.

“The media has a great role to play here in setting agenda for nation building. So, some ignorant and reckless commentators in your midst should be very careful in exercising freedom of speech at this time. That freedom can’t be exercised without some (social) responsibility.

Central Concerns

“The theme of this convention: “The Media in COVID-19 Era: Challenges and Opportunities”, is one of the most central concerns of the moment as the pandemic, despite frantic efforts by relevant stakeholders, continues to wreak havoc on global scale.

“We realized the power of the media on influencing people’s decisions and choices, and therefore, we partner on the training of many working journalists on how to educate the public on prevention and safety measures. A lot is therefore expected from the media such as generating contents that would further educate the public.

“During the peak period of the pandemic, we also have been engaging the media on the fortnightly press briefing where we give updates on successes and challenges.

“Besides, as part of its risk communications activities, the State Task Force on COVID-19 in collaboration with other organisations, has produced and shared multimedia content, including videos, infographics and audio jingles targeting different demographics. The measure has helped increase awareness about the disease and enlightened many on how to protect themselves and stay safe.”

Major Challenges

Danduje, who has also served the state as Deputy Governor, commissioner and Local Government chairman, says, “One of the major challenges we had to grapple with in dealing with the scourge is the handling of the situation by the media, both conventional and social, particularly the spread of unsubstantiated or outright fake news.

“Though they are not new, in this digital age, fake news spread like wildfire and create a breeding ground for uncertainty, which in turn fuels skepticism and distrust, while distrust is a perfect environment for fear, anxiety, finger-pointing, stigma, violent aggression and dismissal of proven public health measures that can lead to loss of life.

“It is my pleasure, dear respected Editors and Gentlemen of the Press, to inform you that Kano was one of the first states to work out the threat even before it occurred and started planning ahead of the epidemic.

“It was followed by momentous financial investments into preparedness and surveillance in collaboration with relevant stakeholders to coordinate and review the response strategies and implementation activities on a daily basis, which have effectively contained the spread of the deadly disease.”

Deadly Pandemic

He stated that in appreciation of the response strategy by the State Government, the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) commended our response to the fight against the deadly pandemic.

“The theme of your convention is, therefore, relevant to the vision of this administration in this connection. It is reassuring that as Editors, you are willing to do your critical part in ensuring that fake news and particularly related to health of the people should not have a place in your newsrooms.

“In the main, despite the daunting challenges and the successes being recorded in the response strategy and the unrelenting commitment and political will, Kano is winning the war against COVID-19. As evidenced by available statistics, which indicate almost daily 0 record of tests being conducted, the state is recording a major breakthrough in the curtailment of the pandemic,” the Governor says..

Highlights of the three-day event presided over by elder statesman and former Ogun State Governor, Chief Olusegun Osoba and attended by about 300 Editors from the print, broadcast and online media, were the re-election of the NGE President, Mr Mustapha Isah Osikhekha, for another term of two years. The occasion also saw the election of 15 other officials.

Photo: A cross section of participants at the event.


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