Constraints On Journalistic Practice In Private Owned Media Organizations In Nigeria

Constraints On Journalistic Practice In Private Owned Media Organizations In Nigeria A Study Of Cross River State


  • Background of the Study


Perhaps, it is correct to assert that of all the human efforts to survive on this planet earth journalism is one of the most important ones. This fact stems from the centrality of the business of Journalism which is essentially the business of information and communication.

All the social institutions such as the family the economy, education and law to mention a few need information and communication within and among themselves to function properly. According to Wood, (2006:2):

Unlike some of the subjects you study, communication is relevant to almost every aspect of your life. We communicate with ourselves when we work through ideas, psych ourselves up to meet challenges, rehearse ways to approach some one about a difficult issue and talk ourselves into or out of various courses of action. We communicate with others to build and sustain personal relationships, to perform our jobs and advance our careers, and to participate in social and civic activities. Every facet of life involves communication

In enumerating the functions of magazine which is undoubtedly one of the most potent tools of journalism, Ohaja, (2004:6) posits that “Success Magazines seek to help their readers advance in their careers, keep their marriages intact and their fortunes growing through wise investment” .

Emphasizing the influence of information in any human society, Darmola, (1999:4) states that “it is now known to possess the capacity to shape the views and mould the minds of people, to influence the course of events and to pressure the authority”. Okunna (1999:108) states that “The information function of the mass media is all embracing and indispensable for


the meaningful existence of members of the society” Udoakah, (2006:78) states:

Over the years, there had been popular demands for freedom of the press for some reasons. Such reasons include the belief that the press incorporating all the mass media, would enhance the free flow of information in the society, promote peace, freedom, wealth and truth and end conflicts by the advance of reasons, accumulation and dissemination of information and knowledge. This serves as the mission of communication in the society.


The above positions and opinions by these numerous authorities in communication demonstrate adequately the enormous powers of information in any society. Thus, ownership of the institution of mass media responsible for gathering and distribution of information should be the cynosure of both the media stakeholders and the general public.

The history of media ownership in Nigeria dates back to 1859 when printing press was introduced in Nigeria by the missionary, Rev. Henry Townsend

According to Ogunsiji (1989:6) “The history of Nigerian press can broadly be divided into four segments, these are the era of missionary journalism, the era of the alien- dominated press, the emergence of the indigenous press and the down of modern Nigerian newspaper” Ogunsiji (1989:6) went further to paint a good picture of this period when he states.

One of such missionaries turned journalist was Henry Townsend in 1859, established his own printing press and inaugurated a printing school in the mission compound in Abekuta Five years later, he founded the Iwe Irohin for the reading pleasure of Egba people, the newspaper was published in Yoruba fortnightly but later became bilingual in 1860 when an English language edition was published. The Iwe Irohin thrived well and was a force to be reckoned with by the time it folded in 1867 as a result of cultural and


political crisis between the European settlers and the indigenes of Egba land. The crisis led to the expulsion of all Europeans in Egbaland including the missionaries. The expulsion put an end to the mission printing press in Abeokuta.


It is interesting to note that Iwe Irohin which was the first newspaper in Nigeria was equally the first victim of media ownership in Nigeria. This is because the newspaper closed down following the expulsion of the Europeans in Egba land. If the newspaper was owned and financed by an indigene it would have survived the expulsion of the Europeans from Egbaland.

We must equally observe that ownership of media organization and practice of journalism in any of these periods were faced with difficulties. This was expectedly so because of the harsh socio-political and economic milieu in which they operated.

Anyanwu (1992:3) captures this situation vividly when he states:


These early Nigerian newspapers were economically weak because their circulation was limited by low literacy rate, poor communication network, general poverty among the people and the political mood of the time which reflected largely in the treatment of the news by the newspapers. Since a majority of these newspapers received no subsidies from government, their earning capacity was limited and, consequently, their growth as business enterprises was adversely affected and, in some cases, completely crippled.


It is relevant for this study to note that at this early period no government in Nigeria showed interest in the ownership of the media. This enabled the press to maintain independent positions in some critical national issues.

This non involvement of government in media ownership continued until after political independence. According to Oguneiji (1989:13):


The Nigerian press had a dramatic change and orientation when, after independence, governments in the country entered the newspaper industry. The period between 1960 and 1966 saw many government newspapers springing up. Among them was the Morning post which was established in 1961 by the Tatawa Balewa government for the purpose of providing adequate and better publicity for its activities.

In collaboration with the above position Nwanze (2003:7) states that “when Nigeria achieved flag independence in 1960, the Federal Government naturally inherited ownership of the media” .Government’s interest in the media ownership was demonstrated in different ways. Gowon’s regime bought 60 percent of equity shares of the Daily times and New Nigerian states:

Ever since the government stepped into the media business, many Nigerians have expressed the fear that Nigerian press would become the lapdog of the government instead of the watchdog of the society. Ogunsiji, (1989:15) states:

It is on record that Nigerian journalists let politicians use them as tools for political gains. The newspaper industry was as politicized as the country itself, particularly during the second republic. Editors were known to be jealously guarding the political interests of their mentors, as they never allowed any negative stories about the party to which they belonged to appear on the pages of their papers.


  • Statement of the Problem


Historically, the media are regarded as the fourth estate of the realm. The functions of the media are to inform and educate the public on the day- to-day activities of the government and equally mirror the feelings and attitudes of the people back to the government. Emphasizing on what should be the ideal functions of the journalist, Sunday (2007) agrees that “the social


responsibility of the journalist include the promotion of universal principles of human rights, democracy, justice, equality, peace and international understanding”.

However, the media practitioners have not lived up to these expectations.


Uwakwe (2003:281) lamented that:


Negative aspect of the press has evolved in a form of a paid press whose function is canned and nearly stereotyped; press whose heart shares empathy with business mogus and political gladiators. A good chunk of the press is controlled by this business and political class leaving the will of the press in the hands of the conscienceless tiny business and political extraction.

With the help of hindsight, we also remember that in 1987, a section of the Nigerian media announced the death of Hon. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe while Zik was then hale and hearty at his Nsukka residence. Also in 2008, a television station located in Lagos announced the death of Human Rights crusader Chief Gani Fawehinmi while he was receiving treatment in London.

Regretting some of these unprofessional attitudes of the Nigerian journalists Uwakwe (2003:281) laments that:

The fourth republic events have not produced heart-warming trends as many state-owned media engaged in acts that did not paint a good image of the profession. It is regrettable that though many state governors in the fourth republic performed dismally, state-owned media did not raise alarm on the misadministration plaguing many states of the federation. Ironically, state media have been awash with spurious and curious “landmarks” of the already failed governments.

The unprofessional and unethical acts abound in Nigerian media. What could be responsible for these? Could it be the influence of ownership on journalism practice in Nigeria because there is the age-old dictum that he who pays the piper dictates the tune?. The fundamental problem motivating this


study is the unprofessional and unethical acts in Nigerian journalism like reporting unbalanced interviews and reporting events without verification. The study will attempt to provide answers to these biting questions.

  • Objective of the Study


The objective of this study include:


  1. To determine the influence of media ownership on journalism practice in Cross River State,
  2. Determine who the private media serve
  3. To determine the influence of ownership on other interests such as advertising and public relations in
  • Significance of the Study


The study, constraints on journalistic practice in private owned media organizations in Nigeria a study of cross river state when concluded will help journalism practitioners and the general public in the following ways:

The study will help journalism practitioners to determine where to practise.

It will equally enable communication researchers to solve the controversies generated by private media ownership over the years.

The general public will be able to determine whose interest private – owned media serve.

The study also will help advertisers and other media stakeholders to determine which media to patronize.

Finally, it is hoped that this study, while serving as a reference material for communication researchers, will equally elicit intellectual debate and contributions for solving the controversies generated by the issue of media ownership in Nigeria.


  • Research Questions


The following research questions are raised to guide this study:


  1. Does media private ownership influence journalism practice in Cross River state?
  2. Whose interest do the privately owned media serve?



  1. What other interests in the society influence media ownership in Nigeria?
  • Scope and limitation of the study


This research is to study the constraints on journalistic practice in private owned media organizations in Nigeria a study of cross river state. The major limitation of this study is time constraint. The time available to complete

this study was too short when compared with the content and the geographical spread of the study.

  • Definitions of terms


Certain terms have been defined in the context they are used in the course of this study.

  • Ownership: This refers to the person, group of persons, government, or corporate bodies who own, manage and control a medium or media as well as make policies for its
  • Journalism: This is the job or activity of writing news reports for newspaper, magazine, television or It also include the activities of public relations practitioners and advertisers
  • Media Organization: The word “media” has several definitions and connotations. For the purpose of this research media organization is adopted to refer to any group or organization whose job or activity is to collect and disseminate information. These include radio, television, newspapers and
  • Influence: To alter or affect the conduct, thought or character of someone or something by indirect or intangible
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