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Booming season for the media as election campaigns start Sunday

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Supporters of former Nigerian vice-President Atiku Abubakar hold a poster as they celebrate his winning of the presidential ticket of the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) during the party’s national convention in Port Harcourt, Rivers State on October 7, 2018. Nigeria’s main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has picked Abubakar to challenge President Muhammadu Buhari who is seeking a second term in presidential polls scheduled for February 2019. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP

As 2019 election campaigns kick off on Sunday, November 18, it is yet another competitive season for the media, as politicians will deploy their campaign messages in the various platforms to impress voters.

It has also been argued that the print and broadcast mediums would enjoy hefty chunks of the freebies riding on their credibility advantage over social media in spite of its fast and wider reach.

A look at the 2015 election advertorials is enough testimony to heavy political spends.

A study of the March 28 Presidential and April 11, 2015 Assemblies advertorials in The Punch, The Guardian, Vanguard and Daily Trust, reveals that political adverts were prominent in the newspapers during the six-month period with the dominance of full page adverts.

The study recommends more ethical monitoring of political adverts as well as the de-commodification of newspaper contents.

About 905 political adverts were analyzed in the six- month period. Punch newspaper recorded the highest number of political adverts (36.8 per cent) in the period under study, followed by The Guardian 35.5 per cent, Vanguard 19.1 per cent and Daily Trust 8.6 per cent.

On political parties, the study shows that of the 905 total adverts analyzed, 64.8 per cent belonged to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) while All Progressive Congress (APC) had 30.6 per cent adverts and all other parties constitute 4.6 per cent.

The breakdown shows that PDP had 23.7 per cent adverts in The Guardian, 22.6 per cent in Punch, 14.8 per cent in Vanguard and 4 per cent in Daily Trust.

APC had 14.1 per cent in Punch, 9.1 per cent in The Guardian, 4.2 per cent in Daily Trust and 2.9 per cent adverts in Vanguard.

The study further reveals that the adverts were more prominent just before the election and during the election. They started featuring gradually before the election in November and December 2014, peaked in January, followed by

February and began to wane in March and actually began to disappear by April 2015.

The study concludes that newspaper operators would most likely feature political adverts prominently during elections and serve the advertorial interests of media buyers to some extent.

Nevertheless, while other advertisers in a way cripple media operations with advert revenue debts, political campaigns usher in hope for the media because over the years, politicians are known for advance payment for their campaigns.

In fact, the General Manager of Radio Nigeria, Purity FM, Awka, Mr. Gregory Idiakosa told The Guardian that politicians do not just pay for campaigns in advance but offered the station a trade by barter in the last election, where the station acquired a generation through the deal.

On how the season can help boost media operations in terms of funding, Prof. Umaru Pate of Bayero University, Kano, recently stated that the political advertising seasons are full of excitement, drama, spectacle, adversarial exchanges, declarations, alignment and realignment, adding, “While the media need politicians as authoritative sources of information and robust advertisement, the politicians need the media for publicity and exposure.

Considering the two presidential candidates of the leading political parties in the country, it is expected that the campaigns would be fiercer as they both battle to win votes.

Head, Advertising of The Guardian, Mr. Peter Obiebi, said, “advertisement revenue usually goes up during political campaigns for a short time, then it declines after the campaigns and elections. It then goes up again with the congratulatory messages.

Obiebi foresees that the two major candidates would want to outdo each other with all manner of campaigns.

Managing Director, Indigo, Mr. Bolaji Abimbola believes that there would be a lot of media spending between now and February 2019, but sensing that this year would be a bit different considering the government in power, which does not give in to frivolities.

He said, “by now, a lot would have been spent, say well over N2 billion. But I am sure that once the campaigns kick off, the media can recover what it has lost this year within a short time.”

This also means that media workers who have endured months of salary arrears may smile to their banks this season.


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