Radio Day: Professionals canvass upholding listeners’ trust
Proclaimed in 2011 by the member states of UNESCO, and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2012 as an International Day, February 13 became World Radio Day (WRD). Radio continues to be one of the most trusted and used media in the world.
According to the United Nations, there are more than 80 million radios in developing countries; more than half of the world population are still not connected to the internet, making radio the most accessible medium and 9,000 children in Southern Africa now have access to education through solar radio.
In Africa, the British Colonial government adopted radio broadcasting to link them with their various colonies. By 1944 in Nigeria, distribution stations sprang up in Lagos, Kaduna, Enugu, Calabar and Port Harcourt. Most of the content of the programme was British Broadcasting Corporation’s (BBC’s) external service in London. BBC’s signals were relayed on receivers through the rediffusion system. The Nigerian Broadcasting Service (NBS) was, however, established in 1951. In 1957, the NBS transformed into Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation NBC.
The Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) came into being by Decree 8 of 1979. It had an external broadcasting service, the Voice of Nigeria (VON), which broadcasts to recipients outside the shores of the country and to Europe and America.
Deregulation of broadcasting in 1992 through decree 38 created the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), and had the power to receive, process and consider applications for the ownership of radio and television stations, including cable television services, direct satellite broadcasts and any other medium of broadcasting; regulating and controlling the broadcast industry; upholding the principles of equity and fairness in broadcasting.
The deregulation launched the country into an era of private broadcasting in 1994 when Ray Power 100.5FM made its debut in Lagos. The station, managed by DAAR Communications and owned by Raymond Dokpesi, became the first independent station to run a 24-hour service in Nigeria.
Today, radio has evolved with many private, government-owned and campus and family radio stations, as well as Traffic Radio. Radio stations can also be listened to anywhere in the world by downloading apps. Many campuses of Nigeria’s universities and polytechnics have also been issued licences, like Unilag FM with Prof. Ralph Akinfeleye, as the pioneer chairman.
With the theme of the 2022 edition as “Radio and Trust,” broadcasters, producers and communication scholars have stressed the need to uphold listeners’ trust, stressing that radio journalism must continue to be based on verifiable information that is shared in the public interest, holds public office holder accountable and helps build a better nation for all.
In an interview with The Guardian, General Manager, Bond FM, Adenike Adegoke stated that radio remains the best and trusted medium in the conventional way of disseminating information, educating and enlightening the people, the world over.
She noted that the importance of radio could not be over-emphasised in view of the fact that radio permeates everywhere and everyone whether the rich, poor, elite, literate or the illiterate.
She said: “For radio, all you need to do is just to listen and assimilate. Newspapers are not so. You listen to the radio without stress wherever you find yourself, be it in the kitchen, on the farmland in your restroom or the bathroom. With the advent of the GSM, radio became more accessible and available to all. You need not exert any energy to read, all you need do is to listen.”
To her, the trust could be enhanced in radio journalism in terms of ethics, contents, professionalism and unity in diversity through training and retraining of professionals and exchange programmes. Ethics of the profession should be brought to the fore over and again to ensure more people’s trust.
She suggested that professionals could take up current issues in the society in their programming to inform and educate listeners. For instance, she said the get-rich-quick approach of today’s youths and the unthinkable age group of those involved could be an issue broadcasters could proffer solutions through their contents.
She added that with the emergence of many radio stations, it is only proper that professionals are employed to do the job to enhance the trust of the people.
She advised that “professionals need not concentrate on a particular region, people, ethnic or society. They must bring every society to the fore in their good, bad and ugly. This is with a view to bringing the good to public glare so others can learn from it and the bad and ugly with a view to correcting them and finding solutions.”
In his view, Professor of Mass Communication and African representative, World Journalism Education Council (WJEC), Ralph Akinfeleye, said radio is used for development and categorised as number one in terms of how information is processed. He noted that It is also less expensive. He, however, cautioned radio broadcasters to prevent misuse, which could cause damage and injure democracy. This is also applicable to governments in developing countries.
Speaking further, he said the regulators must not over-regulate. He observed that many times, Freedom Radio in Kano had been closed, which is not in the interest of the public.
He further said the amount of money for registration and license should be reduced. According to him, “if you padlock the air, you open the atmosphere for all birds to fly. It also appears that National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) imposes high fines on radio stations.”
He added that the number of the radio station is inadequate for a population of 250 million. He said: “We need more radio stations. I’m aware there are many applications on NBC’s table. They should allow more radio stations in the interest of development, especially community radio.”
Executive Director, Institute for Media and Society (IMS), Akin Akingbulu said radio would build trust if content making becomes more participatory. He advised that voice must be given to the audience.
He added that radio would further help to build trust if there is enabling environment and could function well without encumbrances from different kinds of interest, especially political officeholders.
He stressed that if the regulatory environment is better, radio would be able to build trust. He also said building trust becomes difficult when funding is poor. For instance, he observed that the government-owned radio stations are poorly funded at the federal and states level.
According to him, “there are government-owned stations that go off air for weeks. For private commercial stations, resources from advertisers are dwindling. Traditional funding is not bringing enough resources. Also, a number of players could not come up because the regulator does not have full licensing powers.”
“Another challenge,” he said, “is that large portions of Nigerians are not effectively covered. For instance, he said many border communities take signals from foreign countries and this is not good enough.”