By Adediji Kaosarat Adewunmi
Find the balance between the role of the Media in Shaping Public perception and The Media as a Business.
Today, the media has grown beyond just an industry to an advocacy labyrinth of social and cultural matters influencing how we understand ourselves and our world, as well as how we respond to issues that play a significant impact from politics to culture.
The media or the fourth estate of the realm now serves as an important independent segment of society that has an indirect but key role in influencing the political system. The fourth estate derives its power from its ability to withhold or give out information without bias or selective amnesia. In other words, the role of giving accurate information to the citizenry is one of the major roles of the Media.
The media represents a departure from the monarchical or absolute society where the right of the individual is based on what the monarch or ruler says. It’s but with the entry of a free press, society departs from the absolute grip of one man and thus, enthrone checks and balances away from the monarchical or absolutist state that was obtainable in the past where the affairs of the society lie at the finger snap of one man.
However, the media in Nigeria is often influenced by political and economic factors, which can lead to biased and inaccurate reporting. This can further fuel mistrust and dissatisfaction among the public, and can also lead to citizens making uninformed decisions.
Moreover, the media plays a critical role in shaping public perception of issues of governance and its impact on elections in Nigeria can not be overemphasized. The media need to balance her report in a fair, accurate, and balanced way, and to hold the government accountable for its actions in addressing her core responsibility. This can help to build trust and confidence in the government among citizens and can also help to inform citizens’ decisions during elections.
Most importantly, the role of the media plays a crucial role in informing the public about the economy and political situation in the country, and how it affects the quality of life. However, the media can also contribute to shaping public perception by reporting on issues, and not presenting a biased or misleading narrative.
To mitigate the negative impact of the media on the electoral process, it is important for media outlets to report on security issues in an objective and balanced manner, and for the government to ensure that the media operates in a free and fair environment.
Conversely, the media can also play a positive role by promoting dialogue and understanding between different ethnic and religious groups, and by highlighting the importance of peaceful and inclusive elections.
The media must measure its performance side by side with public interest concerns in lending its voice on important issues such as rule of law, human rights, judiciary and legislative independence, crime prevention, criminal justice, thought, and diversity to avoid the public the risk of one-sided reportage of important issues that determine political action and to outcomes.
Thus, we face the great risk of assessing the significance of the media as the mouthpiece of a truly democratic society if answers to difficult questions are seen through the eyes of commercialization rather than objectivity.
Likewise, as a way of combating one side’s views, the media must purge its platform from politically exposed individuals and protect its platform from becoming ‘catch and carry’ and wane off any ideological basis that tends to make its platform for patronage for political hatchet jobbers which have become too extreme for our polity. For the good of the country, the media as a business and as a voice of the people has a moral responsibility to protect other institutions, especially those suffering from human rights abuse under an ostensibly draconian political atmosphere by providing informed and balanced independent information to citizens on every issue regardless of who is involved that way an informed citizen is guaranteed.
In addition, for the good of the country, the media must exercise her potent power in the defense of people’s rights and freedoms of expression of citizens against the state based on professional ethics and this should be the rule rather than the exception in preoccupied itself as a propaganda machine for those in power without verifying the relevant facts or explaining a balance and accurate unbiased independent findings this way the media play a significant role as a checker of government hence, the public interest is served.
In the meantime, as I have noted, to balance its role both as a business and people’s voice, the media has an uphill task of being seen as an unbiased umpire to ensure that stories that embarrass the government or those interests of its stakeholders or the media as a whole are not slid under the carpet. This is one of the dilemmas facing the media in Nigeria today, rather than serving as a government watchdog, the media has tilted towards a selective reportage and coverage of issues that affect the public interest and hitherto compromise to sustain profit.
Nonetheless, the media’s performance cannot be evaluated by profitability alone because as a critical institution, its performance goes far beyond profit-making For example, media must operate in protecting citizens’ rights educate and entertain citizens with unbiased news casting, public affairs, and economic analysis, health and security talks, raise concerns on government human rights abused, and many more, these airways in which media should be evaluated which is essential to the healthy democracy without beholden to stakeholders or highest-paid reflect balancing the scale. Thus reducing pressure on the media for profit-making and safeguarding responsible and informative media. To achieve a healthy media, the government must assist in providing physical infrastructure in government media to protect the public interest thus breaking the monopoly of giant media houses through regulations with oversight censorship aimed at balancing the media narrative that will drive up competition without destroying public interest in its drive for profitability. Anything short of this is unethical and a danger to our fledgling democracy.
Meanwhile, we are at a time media houses are being silenced by regulators or having a different viewpoint and for standing for beliefs that go against the system, the media must build a strong relationship with the public by standing up for their rights in reporting a balance and accurate unbiased investigative journalism by exposing political corruption and crusading injustices in line with section 22, Chapter 2 of the 1999 Constitution which give the media a power to uphold the Government to be accountable.
Lastly, the media plays a critical role in shaping public perception and informing citizens, but it must also balance this role with its role as a business. To achieve this balance, media outlets should strive to report objectively and fairly on issues, and avoid being influenced by political or economic factors.
Additionally, the media should promote dialogue and understanding between different groups and work to protect other institutions, such as those suffering from human rights abuse, by providing informed and balanced independent information to citizens.
The media need to measure its performance against public interest concerns and protect its platform from becoming a tool for political patronage, thus the media need to report objectively and fairly, and the government needs to ensure a free and fair environment for media outlets to operate without bottlenecks.
The media has a moral responsibility to protect institutions and provide independent and balanced information to citizens to promote an informed and democratic society, it’s only when this balance is found between the need as people’s voice and as a business that we can then say our society as come of age.Adediji Kaosarat Adewunmi is of the English Language Department of the Lagos State University, Ojo, Lagos