There are indications that Nigeria’s new Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, would soon begin the process to repositioning all the Federal Government-owned media so that they compete favourably with private media in the country.
Mohammed, who spoke on Thursday during his first meeting with heads of parastatals under his ministry, specifically mentioned that Nigeria Television Authority, NTA, the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, FRCN, as well as the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, have not been completely professional in their activities resulting to loss of credibility and integrity.
As a result, he said, many Nigerians now rely on private media houses to get their information further boosting the image of such private media and attracting them to advertisers while the Federal Government-owned media grapple with the challenge of not being patronised.
The government-owned media are known to have lost some credibility over time and this got worse during the 2015 general election when the NTA aired damaging documentary on then presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Muhammadu Buhari, who eventually won the election.
There were also allegations that government-owned media shut out the opposition by refusing to air their activities.
Mohammed, who did not mince words while addressing the heads of parastatals, queried: “why have you all chosen to play second fiddle in the country’s media landscape?
“I ask because the NTA and FRCN of yesterday is not the same as what we have today. Whereas most broadcast journalists of note in our country today passed through the NTA and the FRCN, there is no denying the fact that the private radio and TV stations are doing much better, at least going by the fact that most Nigerians prefer them to the public broadcasters.
“Indeed, most Nigerians find the private broadcasters more credible.
“The reason for this is not far fetched. First, the public broadcasters have thrown professionalism to the wind while also showing total disregard for editorial independence.
“They have mortgaged their credibility on the altar of political correctness. Yet, these Federal Government-owned media establishments are endowed with highly-trained and well-qualified personnel, better infrastructure and a wide reach.
“It is interesting to note that these government-owned media organisations complain of financial woes, forgetting that there is a link between credibility and profitability.
“Advertisers will surely flock to more credible media organizations, and of course it is also true that content drives advertisement.
“The same law of diminishing returns also apply to NAN, which was once the leading national news agency in the whole of Africa, boasting of the best professionals in the news business. Today, the agency is punching far below its weight, despite its presence in all the states of the Federation.
“We intend to provide leadership for the Federal Government-owned media organisations in a manner that will make them to become the first source of information, so that they can more effectively function as a vehicle for the change mantra of the Buhari administration, and also regain their lost glory.
“The combined reach of the NTA, FRCN and NAN, if effectively utilised, will facilitate the success of the change
campaign. But they must first enhance their own credibility, because no credibility-deficient news organisation can successfully propagate the message of change.
“At this juncture, ladies and gentlemen, let me assure Nigerians that under this Administration, no Federal Government-owned media organisation will deny the opposition the opportunity to air their views.”
Continuing, Mohammed said: “it is true that while we were in opposition, we were treated as outcasts by these public broadcasters.
“They denied us the use of their platforms, they rejected our adverts and even made themselves available for the most abhorrent hate campaign ever in the history of electioneering campaign in our country.
“But in an era of change, which is our mantra, that cannot and will not continue. Opposition members are Nigerians, just like members of the ruling party.
“Even the ruling party will benefit when the opposition is allowed to air their views freely, because you learn more from people who disagree with you.
“Therefore, let the ruling party and the opposition air their ideas and let the people, who wield the ultimate power, decide at the end of the day.
“To the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), I say we are committed to the realisation of the Digital Switch Over in Nigeria, because of the inherent opportunities that this will unleash in the news, entertainment and creative industries and the vibrancy that it will usher into the sector.
“This will in turn create jobs for millions of our teeming youths. The same is true of the National Film Corporation and the National Film and Video Censor Board, which are also key to propagating the change agenda.
“In the end, all of us here, including the Voice of Nigeria, Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria and the Nigerian Press Council will have a role to play in the days ahead, when we launch the massive national reorientation campaign aimed at achieving a paradigm shift in the way we do things.”