By Abdulwarees Solanke
In this season of a pandemic occasioned by the spread of the Corona Virus Infectious Disease, our concern globally now, beyond how to prevent a further spread the infection, is how to cope with or adjust to life under the lockdown occasioned by it.
While not been at another world war, the situation we find ourselves under COVID-19 is like the Americans are about re-enacting Hiroshima and Nagasaki in raining atomic bombs on the two cities in 1947 to bring the Japanese to their knees as a prelude to the end of the Second World War.
We are all victims of the fear of a scourge that is coldly cutting down lives in many parts of the world, crippling the global economy, even almost cutting many souls off from our creator as we cannot assemble for prayers in congregation again. So, in this uncertain time, we are faced with urgent need for assurance that this tough time will not last forever.
We need news and information what will toughen us to stand as steel, strong and solid to see us through this season of despair, as we search for safety. We need consolation from the losses we have suffered and comfort from the pains we have all endured so far.
We need credible news and empowering information, content that will guide and give us choices and alternatives on staying safe and secure, radio and TV programmes that enlighten us on everything about the COVID Pandemic, opinions and analyses that will shatter myth built around this plaque of the generation.
I am therefore forced to ask: What should be on our airwaves in difficult times of disasters, national emergencies and plagues such as the world in confronting now under Pandemic COVID-19?
Until the latter part of the last Century, the airwaves were the exclusive preserve of state or government broadcasters. In Nigeria, liberalization of broadcasting came as late as the early 90s, less than 30 years ago. Wit official liberalization of broadcasting, the era of stage dominance of the airwaves ended and the commercial service broadcasters entered to redefine the broadcasting landscape.
Raypower 100.5 fm, established by Daar Communications Limited is the pioneer in this regard. Now, private broadcasters have festered in the country, competing with government broadcasters in the classical functions of informing, education and entertaining the populace. They also have a unique role of cultural transmission.
Let us step up a bit on the media landscape. With the advent of information, Communication and Digital Technologies, the boundaries of the media have been blurred dramatically. We are today in the world of media convergence were tools and technologies, platforms and genres of communication are supportive or complementary.
The State is no longer in virtual control of media content nor are commercial service providers of media content the only competitors with government and public service media in the media landscape. This is because there are Individuals with vaster powers content creation, sarin and control with the followership they command in the social media.
Social networking platforms like Facebook, Twitter etc are dramatically altering the way we communicate and share information. They are the superpowers of the new age of Information, the age of explosion. It is the ae of varieties that often providers may not necessarily be interested in wat serve the utilitarian preferences of the consumer but the commercial or profit interest of the provider.
Again, let me ask what should be on our airwaves in difficult times of disasters, national emergencies and plagues such as the world is confronting now?
I hasten to answer this question that under this lockdown, all genres of the media, including government and public service media, community broadcasters, citizens journalism practitioners, blog owners, social influencers, everyone with authority and expertise in information or content provision must at this threatening time be focussed on offering hope and guidance to the vulnerable or all who are susceptible to be infected or affected by the scourge of the day.
With our channels, platforms and media, we have a responsibility, to empower the citizens with information, putting before them choices and alternatives that guide them to make the best decisions on issues of safety, protection and subsistence during this emergency of a pandemic.
Importantly too, the media must serve as the barometer for measuring how government is faring in its response initiatives and mitigation efforts, how it is impacting or reaching the poor and the needy, the vulnerable and the Frontline.
We must serve as the feedback mechanism for evaluating the effectiveness of relief and logistic or deployment strategies, implementation of, or reassessing programmes and projects for amelioration or mitigation of the situation brought about by the pandemic.
In essence, while not compromising the recommended distancing, what should be on air under this lockdown and uncertainty should be focussed on providing care, support and opportunities for the citizens, improving engagement and interactions creatively among them.
They should be directing or teaching how to positively channel their energies and impulses as well as means of unleashing their creative potentials through sports and leisure activities during the lockdown.
What we should broadcast, share, post, analyse and discuss in moments like this must never nurture fear and desperation. We must not be harbingers of confusion nor apostles of contradiction, misinformation and half-truths.
We should also not sustain stereotypes and prejudices that will complicate the situation we are in just as we must never be champions of hate speeches and carriers of fake news. We must not engage in sharing content that serve to preserve unfathomable myths.
Our public communication, through the airwaves, online or in print must be relevant, simple and easily understandable, not on complicated or complex and esoteric themes and subjects that bear little or no relevance to public security, safety, survival and subsistence.
They must be on what will assist everybody to make quick, life-saving decisions, because in natural disasters, emergencies and pandemics, what we are confronted with are matters of life and death.
The prerequisite for these are authority, credibility and trust of government officials as sources of public information during the situation as we find ourselves now. It also requires professionalism and humanity of information processors and carriers in wat is aired or published.
But it also demands the readiness of the citizens to yield to change and fundamentally, the fear of Allah in what is provided as information, what is published as news in newspapers and online or broadcast on air.
Under situations as this, no one should work for self-profiteering. Rather, we should be focused on public interest, return to normalcy, rehabilitation and recovery of losses from the pandemic.
Abdulwarees is an Assistant Director, Strateic Plannin & Corporate Development at Voice of Nieria and member of the Publicity Committee of te Muslim Coalition Aainst COVID-19