FOREIGN TELEVISION STATIONS’ REPRESENTATION AND THE PERCEPTION OF NIGERIA’S IMAGE
1.1 Background to the Study
From the beginning, communication has been an integral part of the human society. It has taken many forms from the ancient cave painting to mobile internet of the 21st century, facilitating contacts between different cultures through travel and trade as well as war and colonialism. Such interactions have resulted in transporting and implanting ideas, religious beliefs, languages, economic and political systems from one part of the world to another by a variety of means that have evolved over millennia: oral and written language, sound and images (Schramm, 1988). As the society developed from the traditional through modern to the post-modern eras, communication developed to cater for human needs at individual, group and societal levels. The advent and popularity of mass communication have broken communication borers between societies and countries with the mass media transforming the human society and their effects felt across the world. Thus, media interest has grown beyond the conventional practice to international standard resulting in media globalization. (Alao, Alao & Oguchi , 2012).
Countries and cultures have long been in communication across borders. In the 20th century, radio, television and later, the internet accelerated this process. Broadcast television took pre-eminence from the late 1940s (Schiller, 1969). Television is a domestic medium through which every household has access to an increasing flow of information and entertainment, using devices of sophisticated sources of images and information (Miles, 1988). Television became an attractive medium such that between 1980s and 1990s, the average daily period of viewing varied between 4.9 and 5.3 hours per household and between 3.0 and 3.8 hours for each individual (Sharot, 1994). Indeed, it is clear that television is central to the processes of media saturation in the modern society. Television is an important mass medium in all advanced industrialised countries and it is rapidly becoming so in the developing world. Allen (1992) carried out a study on television and observed that what people did with television was a topic worth considering in research because television’s roles in everyday lives of people manifest in so many different ways. He asserts that “today around the world, 3.5 billion hours will be devoted to watching television” (p. 110). This
implies that television reaches a very large number of people, and it is perhaps the most important source of common experience for countries of the world that are divided by class, ethnicity, gender, religion, culture, political system, level of advancement and other factors.
As a result of the influence of television at individual, group and societal levels, discourse about television programmes among Nigerian youths is a routine and important aspect of their everyday social interactions. At work, in the home, in the street, in the bus or on campus, Nigerian youths talk about the characters in soap opera, share latest fashion styles and discuss burning issues raised in both international and local news broadcasts and documentaries. What they discuss during such interactions is determined by the contents of the media to which they are exposed, especially television being an attractive medium that reaches its audience with an audio-visual appeal.
Meanwhile, the advanced societies of the West dominate the global cinema and television sectors of the media industry. This is because big media conglomerates are concentrated in this part of the world, especially the US and Britain who control global media resources. Arguably, no country comes close to United States in popularity on the world’s electronic entertainment stage. In fact, looking at the global communication flow, information has been argued to be disproportionately disseminated from the United States to the rest of the world and critics described this pattern as one-way communication flow (Padovani, 2008). The resultant effect of the domination of the media landscape is unbalanced flow of communication from the West as Western image and ideas are promoted to Africans, while the latter’s image is often portrayed in bad light. Such image portrayal could have implications on the audience’s perception of people, places and events relating to such developing countries and societies.It should be noted that countries of the world run international broadcasting for certain reasons. These include enhancement of national prestige, promotion of national interest, religious, ideological or political indoctrination, fostering of cultural ties, trade in international markets and promotion of access to pay-television broadcasts (Entman, 2004).
Kamalipour (2007) adds the following as part of the motivation for international broadcasting in today’s digital age: E-commerce in terms of trans-border trade, selling of culture and information across borders, entertainment in terms of music, video, drama, personal and group expression of identity, ideology and religion, promoting access to global traditional media organisations. Due to these motivations, governments attach great importance to international broadcasting. The implications of image portrayal through the television medium to people’s perception cannot be over-emphasised and this has generated debates due to the television influence on peoples’ mental picture of the world.
In 1970, a major debate began about this imbalance in global information flow and disadvantaged developing countries called for a New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO) that would address this imbalance in the communication patterns. Bamidele (2011) observes that:
The New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO) is a campaign sponsored by the United Nations Economic, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to counter media imperialism by creating an information order that gives a more balanced view of developing countries that has generally been by western press coverage(p.72).
The campaign led to the formation of a Commission, headed by a former Secretary-General of the International Commission of Jurists and Nobel Peace Laurate, Sean MacBride, to look at the issues raised as regards imbalance global information flow. The Commission amongst others was to make recommendations on how to make media representation more equitable. The report of the commission, published in a book titled ‘Many voices, One world’, listed the main international bottlenecks in communication and summarised NWICO.s basic philosophy (Alao,Alao &Oguchi). In spite of the recommendations of MacBride commission, the issue of free flow of global information through the mass media remains perhaps not addressed. Most foreign television stations’ programmes, news and information about the developing nations, including Nigeria seem to be about wars, famine, drought, corruption and poverty to mention a few.
In Nigeria, several efforts to correct the wrong notions about the country by the Western media were demonstrated, for instance,Federal government under General Ibrahim Babangida leadership promulgated Decree No 15 in 1991 which established the Nigeria’s external media , Voice Of Nigeria (VON). Since its inception, the organization reflected the country originality so that distortions in the nation’s image held by the external world can be corrected. In 2004, Obasanjo administration embarked on New Nigeria Image Project (NNIP), the motive was to launder Nigeria image beyond the country shore against misconstrued information disseminated about the country by the foreign media. The campaign did so much to correct foreign lands bad impressions about Nigeria. In addition, in 2009, the late Umaru Yar’Adua’s regime launched another image laundering project tagged Re-branding Nigeria Project(RNP) which the then Minister Of Information, late Professor Dora Akuiyili supervised. The project amongst others tirelessly fought the deliberate misconceptions emanating from the foreign media.Furthermore, the Buhari administration’s Change Policy is as well crafted to re-orientate Nigerians against the country’s brand eroders such as corruption, elections fraudulence, insurgency, armed robbery, kidnapping, prostitution, hooliganism, child trafficking, cyber-crime, militancy, exam malpractices, cultism and a host of others. The government contented that in as much that the country can rectify the aforementioned, the country’s negative image shall be reduced if not totally obliterated.
Foreign television stations often used both economic power and the control of technology as a conduit pipe for legitimising their position and policies. As the mass media, especially television, gained more advantage over other medium of communication (Shaw, 1996), concerns became increased about the concentration of media power and its impacts on the developing nations’ images. It is argued that through their control of major international information channels, the foreign television stations give exploitative and distorted views of Nigeria to the rest of the world. Scholars further contend that under the guise of the free flow of information, some governments and transnational television stations have tried to undermine internal stability in developing nations including Nigeria, violating their rights to sovereignty and national development (Masmondi, 1979). Foreign television stations perpetuated and strengthened inequality in development with negative effects on the Nigeria’s image, polity and economy. According to Masmondi (1979),
There existed a flagrant qualitative imbalanced between North and South created by the volume of news and information emanating from the developed world and intended for developing countries and the volume of the flow in the opposite direction. News which they filtered, cut and distorted, the transnational media impose their way of seeing the world upon the developing countries (p. 72).
Debates on whether foreign television stations are responsible for social, political, economic, and cultural perception of their viewers in Nigeria or facilitate ill-actions from Nigerian youths are established by media scholars such as Akintayo and Adegoke (2015) who reported that:
Television programmes reflect a society’s values, norms and practices as well as fads, interest and trends. Western television programmes largely reflect the Western culture through their programmes. Fashion TV and styles for example are entertainment stations that deal with fashion and life styles in Western countries. These stations make youths increasingly aware of fashion trends and there seems to be the urge to try to keep up with the standards (p. 65).
Therefore, the actions and behaviour of Nigerian youths as regards living in the country, cooperating with the government to achieve developmental goals and even participating in cultural and political processes may be a reflection of the way the country’s image is represented by the foreign television stations, through which their metal pictures of the country are shaped. There is no doubt that Nigerian youths’ actions, behaviours and orientations are prone to foreign television stations representation of the country, influenced by their perception of Nigeria’s image as shaped by the stations’ programmes. To some extent the foreign television programmes have become like cultural teaching classrooms for Nigerian youths who watch Western television stations. Obviously, foreign television stations are agents of cultural promotion but those at the receiving end are developing nations including Nigeria and the most affected audience is the perhaps the youth group. In the light of the potentials of television to shape youths’ mental pictures about the world through its programme contents, this study examines the roles of foreign television broadcasting in shaping youths’ perception of Nigeria’s image through the stations’ representation of the country’s image.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The dominance of news gathering and dissemination by foreign television stations and other media organisations have caused disagreements between the developed and developing nations, including Nigeria, since the 1970s . Giffard (1982) listed four areas that have been of special concern to developing countries. First, more than seventy five per cent of the non-local news contents in developing countries media come from foreign television stations and news agencies and the former are forced to see themselves and practically all issues through Western lenses. Secondly, the Western information monopoly resulted in a heavy imbalance in the flow of news with information moving predominantly from advanced countries to developing nations. Thirdly, the West continues to maintain cultural imperialism through its dominant position as supplier of news, information and cultural fare to the developing world. The fourth area of concern is that coverage of developing countries, with particular reference to Nigeria as the most populous black nation, by the foreign media is often painted by stereotypical portrayals of such countries’ internal happenings.
For these reasons, the Western media continue to perpetuate unevenness in global information flow to the disadvantage of developing countries. The various motivations for perpetuating this Western-African divide justify McPhail’s (2006) accusation of electronic colonialism against the West. He describes electronic colonialism as the dependent relationship of poorer countries on the advanced nations, institutionalised by concentration of communication hardware, software and personnel in the latter. The resultant effect of the unevenness in the flow of global communication is apparent in the divide in framing of issues between the West and Africa in different spheres of life – culture, economy, science and technology, environment, health and politics – to the advantage of the West. Foreign television stations’ news flow to Nigeria has great effects on the Nigerian society (Akintayo & Adegoke, 2015).The extent and direction of the way Nigerian youths perceive their country’s image as portrayed by the Western media attracted investigation. Therefore, this study was set out to investigate how Nigerian youths perceive the country’s image as represented by foreign television stations in their programmes.
1.3 Objective of the Study
The main objective of this study is to investigate how Nigerian youths perceive the image of the country based on foreign television stations’ representation of Nigeria’s image .The specific objectives are to :
1. determine Nigerian youths’ assessment of the nature of news stories disseminated by foreign television stations about Nigeria;
2. examine the implications of foreign television stations’ programme contents on the image of Nigerian society as perceived by the youths;
3. ascertain the predominant tone of foreign television stations’ programme contents about the image of the Nigerian society as perceived by the Nigerian youths and
4. determine the implications of selected youths’ perception of foreign television stations’ programme coverage of Nigerian society.
1.4 Research Questions
This study was guided by the following research questions :
1. What is the Nigerian youths’ assessment of the nature of news stories disseminated by foreign television stations about Nigeria?
2. Are there implications of foreign television stations’ programme contents on the image of Nigerian society as perceived by the youths?
3. How can the predominant tone of foreign television stations’ programme contents about the image of Nigerian society be described as perceived by the Nigerian youths?
4. To what extent are the implications of selected youths perception of foreign television stations’ programme coverage of Nigerian society?
The following null hypotheses were tested at 0.05 level of significance.
H0: There is no significance relationship between Nigerian youths’ perception of the country’s image and the nature of news stories disseminated by foreign television stations about the Nigerian society.
Ho: There is no significance relationship between Nigerian youths’ perception of the country’s image and the predominant tone of foreign television stations’ programme contents on the Nigerian society.
1.6 Significance of the Study
This study provided empirical data on the perception of Nigerian youths about their country’s image as represented by foreign television stations programme contents. The study would be useful to various stakeholders in many ways. It could shed more light on the foreign media domination of the developing world, which debates have shown to have led to imbalance in the flow of information to the benefits of the West. The study is thus an avenue to lend a voice to the debate agitated by developing countries, including Nigeria, on the issue. Also, apart from its contribution to the body of knowledge on the controversial foreign media domination, this study could provide an academic platform for other Mass Communication scholars who may be interested in the foreign television stations’ influence on other societies’ images, especially the third world countries.
Moreover, the study could be a useful reference material to parents and guardians who are concerned about Nigerian youths’ moral uprightness as tool for national development. The study also exposed Nigerian broadcast regulatory agencies to the pernicious effects of unimpeded flow of foreign contents into the country. As a result, the study could expose the Nigerian society and security operatives to the reality of television broadcasting as a source of influence of youths’ actions and behaviours. In addition, it could call for the review of the Nigerian broadcasting code, particularly on stipulations of the minimum ratio of 70%-30% local-foreign programme contents. This study could motivate every stakeholder to implement the enforcement of the code as stipulated. Finally, the study would enlighten the public more concerning foreign television stations’ programmes and the implications on the image of the entire Nigerian society.
1.7 Scope of the Study
This study was delimited in subject-matter to investigate the perception of Nigerian youths of their country’s image as represented in the foreign television stations’ programme contents. Particular focus was placed on undergraduates in Nigerian universities within the Southwest region of the country. Based on location, the selected states covered in this study are three out of the six in the region: Oyo State, Ogun State and Osun State. To this end, Three universities were targeted, each from the three states namely; University of Ibadan (representing Oyo state), Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (representing Ogun state) and Adeleke University,Ede(representingOsunstate).Moreover, the study scope purposively selected foreign television stations because they are more popular with reporting Nigerian internal issues, they are; Cable News Network (CNN),British Broadcasting Corporation(BBC), Adjezzera, France 24,Euro News, New Delhi Television Limited (NDTV), Geo News(GN), MSNBC, Deutsche Welle Television, The Voice Of America (VOA),Reuters News World International, Sky News and Associated Press Television News (APTN) with selected programmes such as News, documentary, interviews, discussions, talk shows, and feature stories.
1.8 Operational Definition of Terms
1. Perception: This term is used in this study to refer to the views and opinions of the Nigerian youths about the country’s image as determined by the meaning, understanding or interpretation they derive from their viewership of foreign television stations’ news and programmes and such perception may be favourable – in support of the country – unfavourable – against the country – or indifferent – neutral or showing no concern about the country.
2. Youths: Youths in this study refer to male and female university undergraduates matriculated to study any of the first degree courses on full time basis in Federal, State and Private universities in Southwest Nigeria.
3. Representation: In the context of this study, representation means the way the foreign media report issues and events about Nigeria in news or portray the country in their programme contents, which may include as a growing economy or democracy when portrayed in good light; or as a country of corrupt, poor or backward people when portrayed in bad light.
4. Image: This refers to the manner in which the Nigerian society is projected or portrayed by the foreign television stations through their news and programme contents and such image portrayal could be positive for instance, when news is reported about an economic, a political or technological progress made by the country; or negative when the image is portrayed as that of a nation of corrupt, poor and backward people.
5. Foreign television: In this context, these are television stations that are based in Europe and America and engage in international transmission of programmes. They are stations whose funding, ownership and operations are by Western interests of Europe and America.
6. Federal Universities: These are institutions of higher learning offering first degree courses in different disciplines under the regulatory supervision of the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC), which are owned and funded by the Federal Government of Nigeria.
7. State universities : These are institutions of higher learning offering first degree courses in different disciplines under the regulatory supervision of the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC), which are owned and funded by States in Nigeria.
8. Private universities: These are institutions of higher learning offering first degree courses in different disciplines under the regulatory supervision of the Nigeria Universities Commission (NUC), which are owned and funded by any individual or corporate entity.
9.Undergraduates: This term refers to male and female individuals of between the ages of 16years and 30years, who are Nigerians by birth and resident and are admitted to run Bachelor Degree programmes on full time basis in any of the selected universities situated in Southwest, Nigeria.