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Ganduje, Momoh, Oso others seek sustainable funding for media

By Sunday Aikulola (Lagos) and Murtala Adewale, (Kano)
22 February 2022   |   2:44 am
Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, Chairman, Channels Media Group, John Momoh and Prof. of Mass Communication, Lagos State University (LASU), Lai Oso were among distinguished personalities

Convener and Vice Chancellor, Federal University, Kashere, Gombe State, Prof. Umaru Pate (left) BUK Vice Chancellor, Prof. Sagir Adamu Abbas and Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje at the roundtable.

Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, Chairman, Channels Media Group, John Momoh and Prof. of Mass Communication, Lagos State University (LASU), Lai Oso were among distinguished personalities that recently, stressed the need for effective and sustainable funding for the media to survive the current economic downturn.

They spoke at a two-day roundtable conference on Media Development and Sustainable Funding in Nigeria at the Bayero University, Kano (BUK) recently.

Ganduje, who declared the conference open, proposed strong financial backing as a prerequisite for establishing a media house. He observed that the primary responsibility of media in agenda-setting and keeping concerned authorities in check for good governance are largely being threatened by economic challenges.

He suggested, “as part of the funding strategy, there should be a legal framework for registration of media houses, because we have a proliferation of media houses that are not sustainable, that is why they engage in very cheap publicity and pollute the environment with hate speeches and unwarranted presentation.”

Momoh, who was the keynote speaker, said the media industry in Nigeria, and indeed globally, is experiencing challenges, which are both internal and external.

Speaking on the topic, “Media Development and Sustainable Funding in Nigeria,” he listed the challenges as Credibility, funding, technical capacity, quality content, the safety of media workers, as well as changing audience’s tastes and expectations.

With dwindling revenues, particularly, in the advertising markets, he said news media are looking for new sources of income, adding that there is widespread fear about damaging consequences of these trends for the quality of journalism and the professional survival of journalists.

Many media houses, he observed, could not pay salaries as and when due or meet other equally pressing obligations.

According to him, “they groan under dwindling advertising revenues, prohibitive license fees and many other exorbitant fees in-between. So, with a noose around their necks, and as a developing economy that is fraught with all kinds of challenges, how can the Nigerian media survive? Worse still – how can it develop?” he asked.

He further observed that digitisation has caused untold disruption in the traditional business model of the news media. Today, he noted that in a technology-driven world, television, particularly broadcast journalism, is being transformed in the ways that it is produced, distributed and used.

According to him, “we are witnessing the emergence of new tools and practices, which invariably has affected the ways we produce information.”

As a way out, he said the media in Nigeria needs support to develop in different areas if it must continue to survive. He noted that the challenge would not lie with securing donor funding for media organisations; but said the challenge would lie with how the piper will dictate the tune. He said full disclosure becomes the rudder to navigate through the funding challenges, and assert independence.

He added, “although I would like to align my thoughts with those of some distinguished professionals and scholars in calling for the establishment of the National Media Development Fund in the country, my message is that our society needs strong and independent news organisations that do important journalism. And that’s what’s challenging. There’s no lack of opinions, we’re drowning in them. But what’s supposed to drive opinions and expose corruption and abuse of power is expensive and good journalism. It needs to be financed. Securing support to institutional media in a time of technological disruption is therefore conceptualised as a measure to protect democracy itself—not just the financial security of incumbents.”

He further argued that the Nigerian news media industries are reeling under the effects of the social and global media market. Audiences, he stated, are increasingly moving their media use online, news consumption is shifting to social media in the younger-audience segments and global platforms such as Facebook and Google are taking larger shares of advertising revenue.

Expressing optimism that the future of the Nigerian media is bright, he said, “we need to innovate. A situation where so much revenue goes out of media houses, to external competitors, like Facebook, Google, Amazon and Netflix and other global media giants is unacceptable. The fact that we lose 20 per cent of our income in advertising, year on year does something to the will, to think innovatively. When you combine this with the disruption that has wrought the media industry, It’s almost as if we are consumed by fear-based media development.”

Oso, who spoke on the “Framework for the establishment of media development and sustainability fund”, said it is inconceivable to talk of politics, governance and democracy without vibrant politically relevant journalism.

He noted that the issue of journalism sustainability is crucial, not just to the industry and its professionals, but for society.

Dwelling on challenges, he argued that the old order is crumbling or has crumbled, high level of poverty has reduced purchase of non-essentials which include newspapers; digital technologies with their news media ecology, which have seen the migration of both the media audience and the advertisers to new highly accessible and relatively cheap platforms; citizen journalism and bloggers are providing alternatives to the new mainstream media; the internet with its global public sphere, openness and other feature is accelerating a trend towards globalisation of news, thus may weaken national/local media systems, especially in developing countries; de-industrialisation in the country has negatively affected the production of goods that can be advertised; audiences, particularly youths have become more audiovisual and entertainment-oriented and mistrust of the political and government system, which has affected the perception and patronage of politically relevant journalism.

Sustaining journalism, he stressed, is part of the process of media development, economics and funding to enhance an independent, free and democratic media system.

He, however, advised, “we must be wary of any funding arrangement that is state inspired or controlled. Nothing must be done to put the fate or health of journalism in the hands of the state or even business.”

He also said the primary consideration for sustainable journalism practice “is the protection of media independence/freedom, diversity and pluralism in terms of ownership, content and representation. As the saying goes, he who pays the piper dictates the tune.”

While proffering an alternative model for media funding in Nigeria, the Publisher of Premium Times, Dapo Olorunyomi, also suggested the injection of innovation and strategic ideas to attract funding. Although Dapo was specific that private ownership of the media is not a guarantee against government influence and control, he advocated a good spell out the context of effective democratic guardrails that constrain the control of media for political and vested interest.

He said, “introducing new products is one of the prime activities of business enterprises and one of the most important determinants of their survival. This draws a significant light of the correlation between innovation and survival. A starting point is for proprietors, editors, and journalists, to design charters upon which they engage with governments towards tax reliefs, subsidy regimes and market choking regimes that allow us to start the conversation on the key issue on innovation.”

BUK Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Sagir Adamu Abbas, said the institution is ready for unbundling of Mass Communication programmes with the establishment of new faculty, which will house academic programs such as Journalism, Development Communication, Public Relations, Broadcasting, Advertising and Film media studies.

With the support of the MacArthur Foundation, he said the university is at the advanced stage of unveiling its television station, having secured operational licence and procurement of facilities.

He applauded the foundation for supporting the establishment of the digital FM radio station and computer laboratory that could accommodate 150 students.

The convener of the roundtable and Vice-Chancellor, Federal University, Kashere, Gombe State, Prof. Umaru Pate, explained that the conference was informed by current financial challenges being experienced in the industry.

He said the existing media-funding model in Nigeria needs urgent review through creative and credible strategies that are reflective of current realities occasioned by fast-changing information and communication technologies.

The conference was graced by media proprietors, regulators, managers, civil society activists, communication scholars and other stakeholders.