Why government must take advantage of radio
The breakthrough was a fundamental consequence of the national mass media policy, which was inaugurated to project a new national mass media direction for the country by the General Ibrahim Babangida administration.
Industry watchers have commended the administration for the bold move, which has led to the emergence of ownership pluralism.
Today, Nigeria has over 700 radio stations, with Ray Power FM being one of the oldest having existed for 25 years.
Almost three decades after the deregulation of the broadcast industry, some stakeholders have argued that there was more of ownership pluralism than content pluralism, describing it as an aberration.
A professor of Mass Communication, University of Lagos, Ralph Akinfeleye, noted, “if you look at the statistics, there are more government stations than private and the deregulation policy was to curtail the monopoly of government so it is an aberration. We have more people coming to own radio station but the content is almost the same.”
Prof Akinfeleye stressed the need for management to train and retrain their members of staff.
But President Nigeria Guild of Editors, Funke Egbemode, said, “the kind of content we need is the one that helps us to get ahead of our problems, to set agenda for ourselves and set goals for the nation. Contents that help the ruled feel better and contribute to programmes that directly affect their lives and to criticize those who are ruling. We must generate strong content because we are a developing nation and because our country is not on the right pedestal. The media industry suffers immediately there is trouble in the polity.”
Managing Director, Radio Services, DAAR Communications, Ambrose Somide, observed that deregulation of the broadcast industry has “opened the space for other radio stations, as jobs have been created and more would be created.”
He added, “before the deregulation, the sector was dominated by the government and one primary motive then was propaganda, it was very difficult to get feedback.”
While citing an example with Ray Power, Somide said, “when we started, we did some of the things government-owned radio stations never dared; like giving voice to the people, allowing feedbacks, giving voice to the voiceless and discovery of young talents. We played pivotal role in the development of democracy in the country. It has not been easy because broadcast stations have been shut for expressing opinions the government thinks is too caustic. Journalists have also been locked up.”
Recall that Ray power first came on the air in December 1993 but was shut down by the then President Sani Abacha to claim of no operating license.
On some of the challenges faced by radio stations, CEO Kennis Music, Kenny Ogungbe identified power as a major challenge. According to him, “when Raypower started, we were on generating set. Some advertisers also wondered why we were running 24 hours radio because no station has ever done it before.
“They told Dr. Dokpesi that why were you burning diesel but he told them that we want to be the first station in the history of the country to be on air for 24 hours. Other stations came and copied us.
“We generated power by ourselves in 75 per cent of those 25 years. The government should tackle power to allow more investors. There are some radio stations that have closed down in the last 25 years because of the operating environment. The media industry is in distress now and the government should also look into that.”
Speaking on how radio stations could perform better in the future, Director International Press Centre, Lanre Arogundade, said radio managers needed to be more professional and devote larger portion of their coverage, reportage, and programming to the inclusive issues of women, youths and persons living with disabilities-in short the neglected or unheard voices.
He said, “they must also revisit the tradition of news analysis that helps hold government accountable, by concentrating more on developmental, investigative and community journalism. They should also be in-depth in their reportage with less emphasis on politics. There should also be an emphasis on African cultural peculiarities.”
Egbemode commended Raypower and other stations for still blazing the trail considering how tricky the industry is. Adding that there are plenty of rooms for improvement in a country where you don’t see a lot of 25 years old private businesses.
According to her, “radio is quite close to the grassroots. It is readily available. Whether you are standing at the Bus stop or you are on your way back from the mosque on Friday or on your way to the church on Sunday. It is the easiest way for the government to get feedback and I hope that we will continue as an industry to set agenda using the radio because the radio is readily available and you don’t need to pay extra money at the end of the month.”
While advising governments at all levels to take advantage of radio to get feedback from their constituents, she said, there has been a lot of improvement in the last 25 years, what Classic FM is doing is a little bit different from what Rhythms 92 is doing. And then we have a Traffic radio. We are improving but we can do better. We also need to educate those who prefer to get their news from social media to also be circumspect concerning where they go-to for what is real. Those who are looking for serious content should go to serious platforms. You just can’t say you’ve got a piece of news from social media and believe it. When we want to watch international football, we know the channels to tune to. But I don’t agree with the term fake news. If it is news, it can’t be fake.”
Recall that Ray Power celebrated its 25th-anniversary last week in Lagos with notable personalities and celebrities like Senator Florence Ita Giwa, Kenny Ogungbe, Lagos State Commissioner of police Zubairu Muazu among others in attendance.