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To combat rural poverty, shun lip service to community broadcasting, don tells govt

By Charles Ogugbuaja, Owerri
25 April 2023   |   3:31 am
The Dean, Faculty of Communication and Media Studies, Imo State University (IMSU), Owerri, Prof. Dede Elemuwa J. Konkwo, has said unless adequate attention is paid to community broadcasting, the fight against poverty, disease control, ignorance and backwardness will remain a mirage.


The Dean, Faculty of Communication and Media Studies, Imo State University (IMSU), Owerri, Prof. Dede Elemuwa J. Konkwo, has said unless adequate attention is paid to community broadcasting, the fight against poverty, disease control, ignorance and backwardness will remain a mirage.

He also said there is bound to be scale up of “economic disempowerment, political apathy, sale of votes to highest bidders during elections, perpetuation of poverty and enthronement of inept leadership,” among others, in Nigeria.

The don disclosed this while delivering 29th inaugural lecture of the Imo State University, Owerri, titled, ‘Contradictions In A Land of Plenty: Mitigating the Pangs of Rural Poverty In Nigeria Through Community Broadcasting.’

The author of ‘Issues in Broadcasting: The Nigerian Experience’, and others, proposed the entrenchment of deep-rooted framework and enabling environment for ‘Theoretical Orientation’.

In his 62-page lecture, he raised the need to establish community broadcasting outfits in the 774 councils of the country to drive home ‘dialogic’ developmental activities via adequate awareness creation. He said advantages of emancipatory deployment of community broadcasting facilities outweigh the socio-economic developmental costs of putting such in place.

He wondered why lip service is still being paid to rural development despite abundance natural resources in Nigeria. Konkwo advocated the emancipatory use of community broadcasting by the rural poor to lift themselves from “ignorance, disease, poverty, and backwardness, whenever government sees need to realise the project.”

He continued: “Majority of Nigerians who live in the rural areas have not been able to lift themselves from relative rural poverty. Their economic disempowerment has also translated into relative political apathy, which has necessitated sale of their votes to highest bidders during elections, regardless of who the political candidate is, thus, perpetuating the vicious circle of poor and inept leadership ravaging Nigerian society.

“Up until now, the policy framework for establishment of rural community broadcasting in rural areas of Nigeria, although articulated, has not been implemented. This is in spite of stridency of the calls for rural community broadcasting to take off.”

On the issue of using the mass media, in this case, rural community broadcasting, to combat rural poverty in Nigeria, he deployed a theoretical construct based on the “Emancipatory Use” of the media propounded by Hans Magnus Enzensberger (1972).

In explaining the symbolic theory, Konkwo informed, when the media is used, rather than allowed to advance the causes of target audience, they end up alienating them. An example of a repressive use of the media is when programmes designed to alleviate poverty in the rural areas are centrally produced and handled by urban based professionals without due consultation with the ruralites concerned.”

Konkwo maintained: “The 774 council areas do not seem to have seen themselves nor have they been seen by corporate bodies, non-governmental organisations or individual investors as fit for the establishment of rural community broadcasting in Nigeria. The few commercial radio stations located in semi-urban areas hardly serve the need of rural dwellers.

“Thus, broadcasting and its effects have remained highly far removed from actual needs and aspirations of rural dwellers. Also, none of the privately owned broadcast media is known to have shown any appreciable interest to operate for the sole purpose of focusing on rural areas. The nearest that those unable to find accommodation in the cities have come to the rural areas, is to be located in the suburbs. In the suburbs, they are still far removed from the actual rural people, who need their services most, and whose input should matter in programme ideation, planning, production and dissemination.”

The don wondered why policy makers at all levels find it difficult to address the needs of the rural dwellers. He noted: “Hardly have the policy makers realised that knowing the rural people as well as appreciating their needs and allowing them to be part of the system of generation of development oriented information is crucial to rural development.

“An insight into why those aforementioned campaigns had little success or failed outrightly was seen to be because the initiators of the programmes did not realise that development is usually communication – driven and receiver – centres.”

For Konkwo, community broadcasting should be based on the affirmation of African Charter on Broadcasting, which declares: “Community broadcasting is broadcasting, which is for, by and about the community whose ownership and management is representative of the community, which pursues social development agenda, and which is non-profit. Being a not -for- profit outfit, it is primarily designed to facilitate the emancipation of the underprivileged and their communities, guaranteeing the involvement of these marginalized segments of society directly in decision-making about programming and programme content and the management of the stations.” Konkwo explained that for dialogic communication effect to be result-oriented, programme producers and community members must interact meaningfully.

In view of the above submission, he proposed the following:
“Sensitisation of the ruralites towards appreciating themselves and their environment and how to improve them; enlightenment of the ruralites towards participating in their civic duties and to enable them to understand their rights and obligations as citizens of the country; to empower the ruralites with information to take advantage of the economic programmes and policies of government; to enlighten the ruralites to appreciate the need for personal hygiene and general environment sanitation; to enable the rural citizen to participate meaningfully in the political decision making process; and to enable the ruralite to understand his constitutional right to vote and be voted for.”

Others, according to Konkwo, include: “To enable the ruralites to take rational, correct and judicious economic decisions based on the information they obtain from the broadcast media; to help in boosting the general intellectual and physical well-being of the ruralites through the provision of adequate band functional information towards these; to enable the rural farmer to appreciate the use of modern agricultural innovations and input for more improved yield; to foster the education of the rural child through the production and transmission of appropriate educational programmes; to raise the overall awareness and consciousness level of the ruralites to become more useful to themselves, their families and society at large; and to give a voice to the voiceless in the rural communities so that they can speak their mind to power.”

The above propositions, the media teacher said, must work in tandem with the joint interaction between the policy makers, implementers and the rural poor, whom such programmes were meant for.

Not minding that the picture on the implementation of community broadcasting appears grim, deem and bleak, Konkwo recommended the strategies for the mitigation of the rural poverty through community broadcasting.

He recommended six prong strategies to handle the phenomenon. They include: the Federal Government of Nigeria, through its agency, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), should create the enabling environment for the establishment of community broadcasting in the rural areas; it should make the broadcast airwaves accessible to the rural communities in accordance with the African Charter of Broadcasting (2001); the call for the opening up of community broadcasting (and its potentials for exposing poor and rural communities to the airwaves, by the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights should be headed by the Federal Government of Nigeria, without delay; the NBC should, without delay, begin the process of granting operational licenses to individuals, civil society groups and local governments for the establishment of rural community radio and television in Nigeria; In doing this, NBC should insist, as a critical requirement of the licensee, that there should be a full democratization of rural community broadcasting; not only will this ensure wider latitude of freedom for aspirants to participate effectively in the overall workings of the station, it will lso guarantee the emancipatory use of the media by the rural poor; governments at all levels should create the enabling environment for the establishment of giant and cottage industries in all the rural areas of the country. This will provide the necessary empowerment through employment needed by the ruralites to patronize and support the community broadcasting stations to flourish. Such industries should be given special tax incentives to boost their morale and functioning; and, the country should be restructured so as to effectively harness the potentials of the rural areas and lift the ruralites from relative poverty.

Konkwo concluded by appealing to the Federal Government and other layers of government to look into and implement his proposals for poverty striking diseases, among others, to give way for development in Nigeria.