The Nigerian media landscape is a changing climate. Once dominated by print, radio and television, it is experiencing a disruption by digital platforms. The chief limitations of journalistic excellence are the poor remuneration and the overlapping of journalism and politics often to the detriment of objectivity. However, despite all these limitations, Nigeria — considering its delicate religious and ethnic makeup — cannot afford a state without the media. Chaos would be the irrevocable end-result.
The advent of digital technology has impacted technological change and innovation. This is evident in the country’s startup ecosystem, mobile ecosystem and the uptake of mobile phones. The population with access to smartphones has also been on the increase but digital divide remains evident between the rural poor and urban rich centres of the country. Though the government, with the support of the World Bank, is working to bridge this divide, not much progress has been made.
On the other hand,the Nigeria media is facing multiple challenges arising from mis-and-dis-information and the intrusion of digital technology into media business.
First, digital technology is disrupting the business model of many legacy media organisations with adverse consequence on advertising revenue as well as journalism professionalisation in the country. The hitherto role of serving as custodians of the news is no longer exclusive to the traditional media; it is now shared with social media influencers and online media organisations. Even though most traditional media organisations have functional online presence, there is as yet any media organisations able to provide paid-for-content in Nigeria. Nigeria’s leading daily newspaper, The Punch experimented with it but beat a retreat because of copyright challenges in Nigeria. Media content produced by traditional media organisations are copied and shared online by bloggers and social media influencers without consequences. Thus, making it difficult for legacy media organisations to profit from their content. Unfortunately, the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) and the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) do not seem to show much concern about copyright infringement by bloggers and online media. Also, funding for traditional media organisations has remained a recurring problem and payment of salaries to journalists is considered a luxury. Only a handful of media organisations are able to pay monthly salaries.
When these challenges are combined with misinformation and disinformation, it becomes a double whammy for the Nigerian media. In recent times, there have been several incidents of “fake news” reporting in the traditional media. For instance, there was a report on visa denial to a popular Nigerian Bishop by the US Embassy which turned out to be untrue.
Also, it is expected that the relationship between the media and political actors will gravitate between cordiality and suspicion. On the one hand, political actors are expected to deploy the media to achieve certain political ends. On the other, they are likely to seek to malign the media for lack of cooperation. The Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari was recently quoted as saying that he is disappointed in the Nigerian press for not giving his administration required credit for the agricultural revolution it has recorded in the country. Whether Buhari’s statement is subjective or objective, it is seen as an attempt at agenda setting for the media to favourably report on the activities of his administration. Unfortunately, the media has shown resilience even in the face of military dictatorship and this is not expected to change anytime in the near future. However, intimidation of journalists and media organisations is likely to continue. So many journalists and media organisations have been harassed and intimated while some journalists have lost their lives. .
In addition, the media is expected to remain fragmented along the two centres of production: The southern press axis of Lagos-Ibadan and the northern one of Abuja. These two centres of production are also likely to fall across ethnic and religious lines. This could also manifest in the media through slanting of stories along ethnic and religious sentiments.