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Radio programming and apparent dangers

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Radio studio

Radio studio

Listening to the radio is often an exciting experience for many! Not least because of its great capacity to entertain, enlighten, orientate, educate and inform. In all of these, radio has over time played a major role at ensuring that the listener’s views and world view, perspectives and perhaps sentiments are shaped into thinking, acting or behaving in a specific manner. We have read of how radio was used by belligerent nations in the Second World War, with a view to galvanising citizens of various countries in support of the war aims elucidated by their leaders.

We also know how after World War II, through the independence and liberation struggles, radio remained a tool for mobilisation of peoples to the competing ideologies espoused by the various ideologues. Today! The role of radio has not changed much; it has only evolved to cope with the changes which the world is undergoing in the twenty-first century.

In Nigeria, radio’s role has markedly evolved since its introduction in the 1930s, particularly after the liberalisation of the electronic media space in 1994. We have seen radio being used by various owners to not just propagate the politics of its owner/founder; we have even seen it being used to promote, endorse and even prop up candidacies of individuals even beyond politics and government, into the arena of sports, business, academia and other human endeavours.

There is, however, a disturbing trend which is gradually gaining ground on radio especially within the Lagos area, which if left unchecked could spell doom for peace, stability and order within the polity. Some radio-stations have resorted to inciting the populace into acts that amount to discouraging patriotism, loyalty and nationalism. Indeed! Many on-air personalities on the bill of specific radio stations (many of them private) have become so reckless that they are openly advocating protests, civil disobedience, lack of support to the national team, disregard for values and hostility to authority. This they do, on the platform of ‘freedom of expression.’

If this worrying trend is allowed to continue and left unchecked and unchallenged, Nigeria as a country may be in for some real turbulence. Only recently, a Rwandan was sentenced to many years in jail for broadcasting hate messages and encouraging members of his tribe to go kill members of another, on radio. We haven’t yet reached that here, but it may not be far away if we do nothing.

Even when such troubling statements are made by guest analysts or commentators, what we knew to be the practice was that radio stations would distance themselves from such positions as non-representative of the views of the agency. But when it is the stations’ employees that have become this irresponsible, and regulators do nothing for fear of being labelled as stifling freedom of speech, one can only hope that the nation will not be the worse for it. Where is the age-old tradition of gate- keeping and self-censorship? Have all these things gone with the wind?

More disturbing is the fact that most of these on-air folks are young, with a near-faultless command of the English language; and they appear to have mastered the art of creating a following among their kind, tapping into the apparent dissatisfaction in society to stimulate the listener. Alarmingly, they do not appear to appreciate the power of the microphone in front of them.

It is, therefore, imperative for professionals (particularly veterans), owners/founders of radio stations, regulators and other concerned stake-holders to rise up quickly to articulate a clear-cut set of broadcast norms that would, while guaranteeing free ‘expression’, do so in a way that would not further contribute to the evident fracture in society.
• Akinyemi wrote from Ita-Eko, Abeokuta


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