Audience Perception of Political News Coverage on Television; A Study of African Independent Television (AIT) and Nigerian Television Authority
1.1 Background to the study
Onyebuchi (2012), asserts that in this era of digital technology and globalization of communication, the media have crucial role to play in creating awareness and giving first class information to the populace on issues emanating from the society and governance by their elected leaders. Research has shown that successful countries are rated on how well organized their system of government and political system affects their citizens’ standard of living, Onyebuchi (2012 p.12).
The way and manner a society is governed directly or indirectly reflects on the behavioural pattern and perception of its citizens. Agbo (2013), noted that in a democratic society, the media especially the television station is one of the major sources of communication between the government and its citizen. Agbo (2013 p. 16), also asserts that the media through the television stations disseminate information, news items, transmit political programmes, developmental projects and pitfalls of the various arms of government in a particular country.
According to Akpan (2012, p.16), private owned television stations such as Africa Independent Television (AIT) have been known for disseminating news and information related to politics and major happenings in the political industries around the world. Hence, there is close relationship between communicating political news and other political related news contents. Akpan (2012), added that viewers not only listen to news, they also analyse, select, make comments, give opinions and share comments on how they perceive media effects on politics generally.
In order to establish a robust and information rich society, adequate communication is necessary and a media house that has distinguished itself will definitely excel especially in the present political juggernaut around the world. AIT is a subsidiary of DAAR Communications Plc which was established in 1994 by Chief Aleogho Dokpesi. DAAR Communications Plc is the foremost Independent Broadcast Organization in the Federal Republic of Nigeria pioneering private/independent broadcasting with the establishment of RayPower 100.5FM, AIT, Daarsat – The first fully Nigerian base digital multi-channel direct-to-home subscription TV and an indigenous station FAAJI FM, (http://www.aitonline.tv/live).
The Nigerian Television Authority, also known as NTA is a Nigerian government-owned and partly commercial broadcast was inaugurated in 1977. At inauguration it had monopoly on television broadcasting in the country. The NTA runs the biggest television network in Africa with stations in several parts of Nigeria. Formerly known as Nigerian Television (NTV), the network began with a takeover of regional television stations in 1976 by the then Nigerian military authorities, and is widely viewed as the authentic voice of the Nigerian government (http://www.ntaonline.tv/live).
Konstantin (1991), observes that the perception of audience regarding television news content has long been of interest to communication researchers. Konstantin (1991), explained that perceptions of credibility have been found to be influenced by the content of the news reports and characteristics of the news anchor, suggesting that perceptions of credibility may be influenced by presentation variables. Konstantin (1991, p.6) further noted that public perception is the aggregate of individual attitudes or beliefs in a system. It can also be seen as the complex collection of opinion of different people and the sum of all their views or as a single opinion held by an individual about a socio-economic or political topic. Key component in the formation of public perception is “framing”. Framing is when a story or piece of news is portrayed in a particular way and is meant to sway the audience attitude one way or the other.
Church (2012), posits that in the past, the traditional media organizations have been the basic means of connecting the public with news on social and political world. For a longer period of time, such media have been observed as a means of preventing the citizens from knowing some of the misdeeds of the government especially in politics. As explained by Church (2012), politics in the modern societies can be understood as a system, which organizes and governs the public way of life and taking care of the overall interests of the citizens. The role of the mass media in creating and strengthening the public opinion is pivotal. Hence, with the advent of independent media houses in the process of democratization, expressions and thoughts of the general public have been made easy.
The television today represents a channel of information dissemination, such as the political happenings, events, quarrels and debates. Thus, the manner in which the television station packages and transmits information has an influence on the audience, since it is through the media the audience learn, judge, analyse and make informed decisions about their political issues. Politics cannot exist without the voice of the media, because only through it, the public get to know the plans, activities and agenda of the political parties (Siljanovska and Ejupi, 2013).
In mass media, channels of transmission of news include: the press, radio, television and internet. The media generally have specific technical-technological characteristics with which they transmit their news. The role of the mass media in creating and strengthening public opinion is very important. The advent of independent media houses in the present democratic settings has contributed to the growth and freedom of expression and perception. In modern societies, getting authentic information is critical to the quality of decision making by the citizens and the legislators. The growth of the mass media and their capability to transmit information and messages to a large population has turned the media world into a large social institution (Gilens, 2009).
It is against this backdrop that the researcher seeks to investigate the perception of viewers/audience about political news coverage on television stations using AIT and NTA as the main focus. Efforts shall be made to find out the impact of television in the dissemination of political news and politics in general.
1.2 Statement of Research Problem
One of the most common generalizations about politics is that today’s voters are less informed and less engaged than voters in prior generations. This perceived decline in political engagement echoes a decline in both exposure to news and the quality of political news. According to Gilens (2009), television viewers have been waning steadily for decades, the network programme as Gilens (2009), asserts have lost a third of their viewers, and the content of campaign coverage in these news outlets has shifted away from policy to scandals, gaffes, and the horse race. It is no wonder, then, that citizens are viewed as less equipped to make electoral decisions today than they were 50 years ago (Gilens, et al., 2009). Despite the efforts of the private electronic media to help in the growth and development of the country, by keeping audience informed about political activities in the country through their political news and programs, these media houses shortcomings such as lack of resources to verify stories which can lead to spread of misinformation, it can lead to ruin of reputation of an individual or a company through spread of rumors. Also, there is dependence on the disposition of the audience, which may be favorable or unfavorable, positive or negative, good or bad. Thus, these short comings have prevented them from serving the audience effectively.
It is in this context that this work will study the audience perception of political news coverage on Africa Independent Television (AIT) and Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) in Ilorin metropolis. The study will seek to proffer and suggest solutions to some of the challenges mentioned above.
1.3 Objectives of study
The objectives of this study are:
- To examine the extent to which residents of Ilorin metropolis are exposed to political news coverage on AIT and NTA Ilorin.
- To examine the attitude of residents of Ilorin metropolis towards political news coverage on AIT and NTA Ilorin
- To find out the relationship between political awareness of residents in Ilorin metropolis and their perception of political news coverage on AIT and NTA Ilorin
- To find out the influence of political news coverage and political behaviour of the audience