Fuel Subsidy in Nigeria – Public Perception on Newspaper Reportage
FUEL SUBSIDY IN NIGERIA – PUBLIC PERCEPTION ON NEWSPAPER REPORTAGE
Fuel Subsidy in Nigeria and around the world has commanded a lots of attention. Here’s an article on public perception on Newspaper reportage on subsidy.
1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
From time immemorial, the media has been one powerful force that has always dictated the direction of things in the society.
The media has over the years around 1970s, made or mar governments all over the world as well as their policies vis-à-vis their disposition towards the government.
According to McQuail (2000), emphasis is laid that a belief in the power of mass media was initially based on the observation of their great reach and apparent impact, especially in relation to the new popular newspaper press. The popular press was mainly funded by commercial advertising, its content was characterized by sensational news stories and its control was often concentrated in the hands of powerful press ‘barons’.
Most recent events, including the fall of the communism, the Balkan war and two Gulf wars have confirmed the media as an essential and volatile component in any international power struggle, where public opinion is also a factor. The conditions for effective media power have generally included a national media industry capable of reaching most population, a degree of credibility and trust in the media on the part of the audience or readers.
The media has been variously defined by scholars of mass communication among which media is referred to as a collective means of communication by which general public or populace is kept informed about the day to day happenings in the society. The media is also said to be an aggregation of all communication channels that use techniques of making a lot of direct personal communication between the communicator and the public.
While talking of mass media however, the word “mass” means a large number of people or a collection of organs of communication and information dissemination that reaches out to a large number of people. The information circulation is not only confined within members of the public but the media also serves to coordinate the information flow between government and the public and vice versa, in our own case, between leaders and the led and vice versa.
McQuail (2000, p.226) describes mass media as the organized means for communicating openly and at a distance to many receivers within a short space of time. Murphy (1999) as cited by Daramola (2005) sums up societal impacts of the media in different ways, as oil, glue and dynamite.
As glue, social cohesion is maintained by communication. Murphy contends that the media gives all of us including strangers something to talk about by setting agenda of discussion. He likewise describes the mass media also as dynamites that can rip the society apart. Milton (1983) as cited by Egbon (1995) agrees with Murphy when he says the press is capable of making or destroying government given the appropriate conditions: it can cause war or create peace.
It can promote development or create difficulties in the way of development. Merril (1995) says the media possess the power to work against it. The media can oil and ease the economic wheel of a country or bring them to maintain social equilibrium, facilitate change or to seek radical alternatives.
On the other hand, Democracy emphasizes freedom of the individuals in various aspects of political life, equality among citizens, justice in the relations between the people and the government and participation of the people in choosing those in government according to Nnoli (2003). The foregoing is in line with the common good and the will of the people’s thesis of democracy. What these general conceptions suggest is that democracy, as a system of government stresses the sovereignty of people socially, the study will be making people realize that democracy is a system of government that ensures power actually belongs to the people.
The print media according to Rogers (1973, p.8) include newspapers, magazines, books, pamphlets, direct mail, circulars, billboards, skywriting and any technical device that carries a message to the masses by appealing to the sense of sight, newspapers which is our focus for this research work, is described according to Asemah (2011, p. 291) as a collection of folded printed sheet of paper published periodically, usually daily or weekly for circulating news.
The Nigerian Newspaper Act (NNA) defines newspaper as any paper containing public news, intelligence or the occurrences of any remarks, observations or comments printed for sale and published in Nigeria periodically. Unlike books, newspaper are not bound, not stapled, they are folded. The first newspaper in Nigeria was published by Henry Townsend in 1859 known as Iwe-Irohin. News and paper together makes newspaper; meaning a paper published periodically and that bears tidings or timely reports.
Some of the major characteristics of print media involves; its appeal to the eyes of the reader, they are permanent because newspaper published long time ago can still be referred to. Newspaper can also be moved from one place to another with ease.
The much acknowledged roles of the media during the fuel subsidy removal has been described as a great factor which led to the eventual re-adjustment of the decision by the federal government. This is because if the media had not adequately made known the gravity of the policy on the lives of the people. It is against background that this study intends to critically look at how the newspaper covered the perception of the people in respect of the fuel subsidy removal which would significantly contribute to revealing democracy as a system of government where everybody can achieve his or her goals.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM ON FUEL SUBSIDY
From 1960 till date, the state has failed to resolve the contradictions inherent in the neo-colonial political economy. The economy remains open to foreign exploitation and the political tutelage to western power continued. Even the attempts in the 1970s to ensure Nigerian control of economic opportunities through the Nigerian Enterprise Decree (NEPD) first promulgated in 1972 but extended in 1977, has been severely thwarted by the 1988 now National Industrial Policy. This policy virtually removed all restrictions previously placed on specific areas of Nigerian businesses available to foreigners. There are hardly any areas left where foreigners cannot operate as long as they have the money.
On January 2012, the government formulated a policy to remove the subsidy from petroleum and this attracted a lot of public debate, opinions and reactions leading to NLC strike and demonstrations in various states. Through the mass media people were made to know about the policy and to react to the government policy and this does not exclude the Nigerian Newspapers as they also explained and analyzed the policy and its effect on the general public and also provoked their reaction and opinion.
This action may attribute to the sensitization carried out in the media especially in the newspapers pre and post removal of the fuel subsidy through news reports, feature articles, opinions and editorials among others.
Therefore, the problem this study seeks to investigate is public perception of newspaper reportage of the fuel subsidy removal in Nigeria.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The main objective of this study is to ascertain the public perception of newspaper reportage of fuel subsidy removal in Nigeria. Specifically, the study aims at:
i. Assessing the role of the newspapers during the period of the fuel subsidy saga.
ii. Examining the effect and impact of the newspaper reports during this period.
iii. Examining the various public perceptions and response to the newspaper reports on the fuel subsidy removal.
iv. Ascertaining some measures and policies through which newspapers may improve the relationship between the government and the public.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
The following questions have been drawn to guide the study:
i. Did the newspapers report the fuel subsidy removal in Nigeria?
ii. Did the newspapers report the public perception of the fuel subsidy removal?
iii. To what extent was the issue reported?
iv. Of what effect were the reports in the newspaper?
1.5 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
This study reveals how the media acted in reporting the perception of the public on the fuel subsidy removal and also reveals the perception of the people about this information passed across by the media.
It is hoped that the findings of this work will help the government to be more alive to their duties, as it should be under a democratic government. Also, this study is significant politically because it will assist government in formulating formidable policies that will bring a more robust relationship with the press and the people as well as engender the needed conducive environment for political and societal development.
The benefit of this study is also to motivate the public to trust the newspaper reports and the newspapers in return should be made to know their laxity in some areas pertaining to the objective and unbiased report from their desk.
1.6 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
The scope of this study covers the newspaper reports on the removal of fuel subsidy, including its approach in reporting the event and the effect of the report on the public. The area of coverage for this study is Kogi State University, Anyigba.
1.7 DEFINITION OF TERMS
MEDIA: Something by or through which an effect is produced. Media is also a channel of communication that reaches a large number of people. It is the main ways that large number of people receives information and entertainment, that is, Television, Radio, Newspapers and the Internet.
NEO-COLONIAL: A policy whereby a major power uses economic and political means to perpetuate or extend its influence over underdeveloped nations or area. Neo-colonialism is the use of economic or political pressure by powerful countries to control or influence other countries.
NEPD: Nigerian Enterprises Promotion Decree of 1972, is to ensure that Nigerians has a control of economic opportunities.
SUBSIDY: A subsidy is an assistance paid to a business or economic sector. Most subsides are made by the government to producers or distributed as subventions in an industry to prevent the decline of that industry. Subsidy is the money that is paid by a government or an organization to reduce the cost of services or cost of producing goods, so that their prices can be kept low.
COMMUNICATION: Communication is the activity or process of expressing ideas and feelings or of giving people information. It is the exchange of thoughts, messages or information, either by speech, visuals, signals, writing or behavior.
MASS COMMUNICATION: Mass communication is the term used to describe the academic study of the various means by which individuals and entities relay information through mass media to large segments of the population at the same time.itt is usually understood to relate to newspapers and magazine publishing, radio, television and films.
NEWS: It is the news information about something that has happened recently, a report of recent event that appear in newspaper or on television or radio. News is the communication of selected information on current events which is presented by print, broadcast or the internet, to a third-party or mass audience.
NEWSPAPER: A set of large printed sheets of paper containing news, articles and advertisement, published every day or every week.
PERCEPTION: Perception is the way you notice something, the ability to understand the true nature of something, an idea, belief or an image you have as a result of how you see or understand something.
PUBLIC: These are connected ordinary people in a society in general. In communication science, publics are groups of individuals and the public is the totality of such groupings.
REPORTAGE: The reporting of news or the typical style in which this is done in newspapers or on television and radio. Reportage sometimws refer to the total body of media coverage of a particular topicor event, including news reporting and analysis.
GOVERNMENT: These are the group of people who are responsible for controlling a country or a state. A government consists of the legislators, administrators and arbitrators in the administrative bureaucracy who control a state at a given time and the system by which they are organized. Government is the means by which state policy is enforced as well as the mechanism for determining the policy of the state.
DEMOCRACY: A system of the government in which all the people of a country can vote to select their representative, is known as democracy. Democracy is a political system based upon the concept of “rule of the people”. As referring to people categorized as citizens of a society, who have been designed the right to hold some form of political power.
POLICY: A plan of action agreed or chosen by a political party, a business. A policy is typically described as a principle or rule to guide decisions and achieve rational outcomes. Policies are generally adopted by the body of government where procedures or protocols would be developed by senior executive officers.
REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE
This chapter reviews the evolution of newspapers in Nigeria, an overview of perception, theoretical frame work which analyses the relationship between the topic under research and the theories studied; social responsibility theory and agenda setting theory, the challenges of newspaper and its roles in the society.
2.2 EVOLUTION OF NEWSPAPER IN NIGERIA
The history of the Nigerian print media better treated and studied broadly, by dividing it into four segments. These are the era of missionary journalism, the era of the alien- dominate press, the emergence of the indigenous press and the dawn of modern Nigerian newspaper.
The need to increase literacy level among local people, so that they would be able to acquire more knowledge through the reading of short stories and essays on various subjects’ particularly religious matters prompted the Presbyterian mission in 1846 to install a printing press by the missionaries set the ball of newspaper work rolling in Nigeria.
According to Ogunsiji, (1989, p.6) other missionaries who later went into newspaper production took their cue from the first printing press. In 1954, Henry Townsend, a missionary, found the Iwe-Irohin for the reading pleasure of the Egba people. The newspaper was published in Yoruba language fortnightly. Not until 1860, the English language edition was printed, making the paper bi-lingual.
Iwe-Irohin concerns itself with publishing news about church activities, particularly the establishment of the new churches, the arrival and departure of missionaries and the death of religious dignitaries and traditional rulers. Writing on the content of the newspaper, Ogunsiji (1989, p. 7) went further to say the paper’s news content, however, broadened after sometime to include subject other than church matters such as stories about towns and their environs, commercial news about producer prices, announcements from local chiefs and the arrival and departure of colonial governors.
Though, the Iwe-Irohin did not survive for a long time, but, it secured a large circulation and exhibition of professional journalistic expertise. The newspaper helped in increasing the level of education and the social awareness of the entire people the newspaper was serving.
As further stressed by Omu (1978, p.8); “the missionary newspaper may not have a very wide influence on west Africa society, but there can be no doubt that the first generation of educated Africans to what had become an intrinsic part of enlightened society in Europe and other lands .there example gave inspiration of African people who invented the idea of the newspaper and came to employ it as the chief weapon by which they were to exercise their power of participation in the government of their land.”
2.3 AN OVERVIEW OF PERCEPTION
Analyzing a scholarly research on the audience, Eastman (1998) sees that the clearest line of development in audience theory has been a move away from the perspective of the media communicator and towards that of the receiver, the media has come to accept this pragmatically, as a result of the steadily increasing competition for audience attention.
Sambe (2008)cited in Asemah (2011), says that public opinion consists of those opinion held by the public, which government finds prudent to heed. Public opinion is the sum of all private opinions of which government officials in some measures are aware and which they take into account in determining their official actions.
Asemah (2011) sees public opinion as the views, expressions and feelings held by the general members of the society about issues, events, happenings and occurrences in the society. These happenings may be at the local, national or international level. The media whether electronic or print are always available to reflect and regulate interests in our society. When they raise such an issue, it is either you are affected directly or indirectly by the issues raised by the media.
More importantly, it is the role of the media as the purveyor of the aggregation of these views. The media act as the voice, reflector, or the organ of public opinion or it serves as the controller, regulator or even the creator of public opinion. Public opinion is very important in determining the survival and growth of any society. The term public can be described as a group of people who are concerned over and are divided upon an issue.
According to McQuail (2005), reader’s perception can be influenced based on certain factors such as:
i. Personal attributes of age, gender, family position, study and work situation, level of income and also lifestyle; there is some indication that personality differences may play a part.
ii. Social background; especially as reflected in social class, education, religious, cultural, political and family environment and region or locality of residence.
iii. Personal tastes and preferences for certain genres, formats or specific items of content.
iv. Media Related Needs; for personal benefits such as company, distractions, information and so on. These needs are widely experienced, but the particular balance between them depends on personal background and circumstances.
v. Awareness; these are the choices available and the amount and kind of information possessed also plays a part in reader’s perception.
vi. General Habit of Leisure Media Use; this means being exposed to the media at an appropriate time or place to receive information, can also influence perception.
vii. Specific Context of Use; this varies according to the medium but generally refers to sociability and location of use. Most relevant is whether one is alone or in company of friends or family. This to a large extent can also influence the character of the experience as well as the process of making choices.
2.4 THEORETICAL FRAME-WORK
The study is anchored on two theories; they are social responsibility theory and agenda setting theory. The social responsibility theory explains the responsibility of the press towards the dissemination of their report, while the agenda setting theory is the ability of the press to give the public what to think.
2.4.1 SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY THEORY
The social responsibility theory is an offshoot of libertarian theory. The theory sprang up in the middle of 20th century. Okunna (1999, p.35) cited in Asemah (2011, p, 146), describes it as a modern theory because it was born in the twentieth century. According to McQuail (1987), the social responsibility theory owes its origin to an initiative- Commission on Freedom of the Press. Its main impetus was a growing awareness that in some important respects, the free market had failed to fulfill the promise of the press and to deliver expected benefits to the society.
The theory has a wide range of applications, since it covers several kinds of private print media and public corporations of broadcasting, which are answerable through various kinds of democratic procedures to the society. The theory has thus tried to reconcile independence with obligations to society.
The theory emerged because the press abused the freedom which they enjoy as a result of the free press. Under a free press, there is supposed to be a flow of objective information that will allow citizens to make intelligent political decisions and other decisions affecting their lives. The excesses and distortions in yellow journalism and sensationalism did not allow these objectives to be achieved. The press engaged in sensationalism, invasion of privacy, defamation of character and other negative activities by the press due to press freedom, the Hutchins Commission was set up in 1947 to look into the criticisms of the press.
The committee after its meetings made it clear that, freedom and responsibility go hand in hand and that the press should be periodically reminded of its responsibility.
The press which enjoys a privileged position under the government is obliged to be responsible to the communication in contemporary society. If on the other hand, the media fails to do just that, then the government agency should be used to ensure that they are forced to do so.
McQuail (1987) outlines the principles of the social responsibility theory as:
• Media should accept and fulfill certain obligations to the society;
• These obligations are mainly to be met by setting high or professional standards of information, truth, accuracy, objectivity and balance;
• In accepting and applying these obligations, media should be self-regulating within the framework of law and established institutions;
• The media should avoid whatever might lead to crime violence or civil disorders or give offence to minority groups;
• The media as a whole should be pluralist and reflect the diversities of their society. Giving access to various points of views and granting all the right to reply.
• Society and the public, following the first named principles, have a right to expect high standards of performance and intervention can be justified to serve the public good.
• Journalists and media professionals should be accountable to society as well as to employers and the market.
The social responsibility theory comes into play in the case of the fuel subsidy removal, as the media were saddled with the responsibility to disseminate information to Nigerians carefully and responsibly in order to avoid confusing the people or provoke unwanted actions such as violence and sensationalism in reporting to the people on the development of the issue on hourly basis.
In a nutshell, the social responsibility theory is applicable to the topic under study, in order to evaluate and access newspaper reports and stories during the removal of fuel subsidy.
2.4.2 AGENDA SETTING THEORY
The theory says the media are not always successful at telling us what to think, but they are quite successful at telling us what to think about. The theory was proposed by Maxwell McCombs and Donald L. Shaw in (1972/1973).
An agenda is an issue or subject of discussion. It is a topical issue, which elicits positive or negative comments from the members of the public. Agenda setting on the other hand is the process of reflecting the events in our society.
According to Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw (1972, p.194), in choosing and displaying news, editors, newsroom staff and broadcasters play an important part in shaping political reality. Readers learn not only about a given issue, but how much importance to attach to the issues from the amount of information in a news story and its positions.
Wimmer and Dominick (2000) observe that the theory on agenda setting by the media proposes that the public agenda or what kind of things people discuss, think and worry about is powerfully shaped and directed by what the media choose to publicise.
The notion of agenda setting can be traced back to Walter Lippman (1922, p.55) who suggested that the media were responsible for the picture in our heads. Lang and Lang (1966) reinforced this notion, by observing that the media pay attention to certain issues, they are constantly presenting objects, suggesting what individuals should think and have feelings about.
According to Folarin (1998), Agenda Setting involved elements such as: the quantity or frequency of reporting, prominence given to the reports through headlines display, pictures and layout in newspapers, magazines, films, graphics or timing on radio and television, the degree of conflict generated in the reports and cumulative media specific effects over time.
The implication of the Agenda Settings theory on the media is the responsibility the media are saddled with, which is monitoring the events happening in the society and reporting to the members of the society. That is, the media are the watch dog of the society.
In raising these issues, there has to be balance and fairness, objectivity alongside other qualities to be possessed by the media. The media therefore are not to ignore any salient issues for political, religious, economical and environmental reasons. Since it is through the media that we get to know what is happening in the society, attention should be paid to all salient issues as they happen in our society.
Therefore, given the situation of the fuel subsidy removal, the news media (focusing on newspapers), emphasized the whole saga with the headline on the front-page of every newspapers during the period the subsidy was removed. It was announced by President Goodluck Jonathan. The subject by the newspapers which gave the readers what to think about aggravated the reaction of readers and communication flow from readers in the society.
Most importantly, the theory is used to view how the newspapers emphasized the issue to members of the society and how stories from it gave room to the public for discussion.
2.5 CHALLENGES OF NEWSPAPERS IN COVERING ACTIVITIES LIKE FUEL SUBSIDY IN NIGERIA
According to Wikipedia, the increasing use of the internet’s search function, primarily through large engines such as Google, has also changed the habits of readers. Instead of pursuing general interest publications, such as newspapers, readers are more likely to seek particular writers, blogs or sources of information through targeted searches, rendering the agglomeration of newspapers increasingly irrelevant.
Where once the ability to disseminate information was restricted to those printing presses or broadcast mechanisms, the internet has enabled thousands of individuals commentators to communicate directly with others through blogs or instant message services. Even open journalism projects like Wikipedia have contributed to the reordering of the media landscape, as readers are no longer restricted to established print organs for information.
Critics of the newspaper as a medium also argue that while today’s newspapers may appear visually different from their predecessors a century ago, in many respects they have failed to keep pace with changes in society.
According to Asemah (2011, p.295) most newspaper houses employ people who are not qualified. These people are without the required skills. Such people cannot help to move the organization forward as they lack the expertise to do so.
He further explains that the government also can decide to close a newspaper house down and this is simply because, it is the government that issues licenses which allows an individual to operate the media. Government regulations can be unfavourable to the newspaper houses and this can make a newspaper collapse.
Analysis made on how crisis can be a challenge to the survival of newspaper clarifies that so many newspapers have been closed down today as a result of crisis. The Iwe-Irohin folded up as a result of the crisis that engulfed Egba land.
According to Richard Stevens, an assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Colorado, states that “the industry is certainly diversifying and to a certain degree, is seeing a more democratic playing field in terms of competition”.
Over the past century newspapers has played a dominant role in public communication and are now struggling to adapt to the internet earthquake that has imploded the business model foundation that has proven so successful in the past, the big problem is the unwillingness to change. Stevens said, the industry could have easily invented eBay or Craigslist and other models that are used for redistributing income away from traditional media, but newspaper organizations have been slow out of the gate.
Newspapers were at a dominant position and did not change when the world called for it.
More so, according to Banjoko (2011) in Nigeria’s democratic setting, the body that controls the affair of the press is not being recognized.
The Nigerian Press Council has been pronounced the body as an illegal entity in a federal court sitting in Lagos. Decree 85 of 1999 which set up the council is said to be oppressive, overbearing and grossly incompatible with civilized standard of society according to Justice Liman, this present affairs at the council at the council where nobody accords it the necessary attribution was the reason for the verdict.
Asemah (2011, p.294) poised that lack of equipment makes it difficult to remain in business, when a newspaper house does not have the required equipment for production.
Finally, fund is required to buy all the production materials, to pay staff and to maintain the equipments, but when money is not available to run the newspaper house, it can make the newspaper house collapse.
Asemah (2011, p.294) highlighted some problems the print media faces in Nigeria;
i. High Cost of Production: most of the equipment such as ink, cow gum, plates and so on is not processed in Nigeria and the cost of importing them is high.
ii. High cover price: the price of the newspaper is too high for a common man. Instead of more people reading newspaper, we find less people reading. The high cost of newspaper has made most people to look for other means of acquiring information.
iii. High Circulation Cost: most newspapers in those days had easier transportation facilities like vans and cars. But because of the current high cost of vehicles, fuel, etc, they are no longer able to purchase vehicles for circulation of newspapers.
iv. Inflation: reduction in the value of the currency is a problem that affects all organization
v. Low Advert Patronage: most advertising companies hardly advertise their products because, newspaper charge high price for advert. All this problems has effects on the readers in their reading habits, reduction of variety means of getting information, resort to alternative source of getting information, group purchase and readership and reduction in bulk purchase.
2.6 THE ROLE OF NEWSPAPER IN THE SOCIETY
The Nigerian Newspapers have contributed a great deal to public opinion on certain issues in Nigerian society. The press as the fourth estate of the realm, they interpret policies and programmes of government to the general public. Sambe (2008) cited in Asemah (2011, p.36), says that the mass media in Nigeria set agenda for national discourse.
They have the capabilities to manipulate vision and get the people constantly fixed to issues that are given prominence in their agenda. The issues they give prominence, are those issues we worry about. They raise people’s consciousness through their editorial write ups, news, feature stories e.t.c. It can therefore be said that the press is a product of mass opinion. Through newspapers, we get to know certain issues that unfold in the society, with the print media laying emphasis on such issues, makes us to form certain opinions about such issues.
Newspaper is very important in our lives and it is the most common form of printed media. Newspaper gives the information related to all fields of life. Individuals who routinely study the newspapers cannot spend their one day without newspaper. People can keep themselves updated from all of the important news of the world.
Another impact which newspapers bring to us is the exposure of the people to the news which should not be made openly. This can cause disturbance among the people. This is the requirement of the media to publish rumors and hot gossips therefore, newspapers can also misguide the people. In conclusion, I would like to say that newspapers can have both the positive and negative impacts on our lives.
From the century’s people using different ways to send messages and making public announcements and informing bulletins used different Medias. They use to write on skins, stones, white boards, and cloths to send messages. First newspaper was printed in the form of new sheet in china in the 18th century. Newspapers are use to published research work. In the old days, they were sold as a source of book of different scientist, doctors, and researchers.
Newspapers still plays a vital role even the changing in technologies creating challenges and opportunities for this media. Newspaper is main source of handy information provide up-to-date information. Everyone can afford to buy. It gives the sophisticated approach towards life in social, political, economical and entertainment framework.
Provide knowledgeable information available to all ages and societal status. Because it is not necessary that every one have TV, or internet resources, radio, as these are the technological resources. It is global need of every culture. It is also beneficial to the different organization to sell their products through advertisements. it creates reading and research skills for children specially. It promotes freedom to journalism to project the truth in the society and aware with the global happenings.
Public opinion is very important in our society. Important in the sense that, it helps to determine how government should formulate policies. One of the essential factors that influence public response is interaction, which facilitates the functioning of communication.
Analysis made by Neuman cited in Folarin (2008, p. 235), emphasized that media output and polled journalists on various issues relating to government and politics in West Germany and came out with the conclusion that “to a large extent, it is media which creates opinion”.
Accordingly, ideas, occurrences and persons exist in public awareness practically, only if they are lent sufficient publicity by the newspapers and only in the shapes that the newspaper ascribes to them. Therefore, majority of newspaper readers tend to see issues as the newspaper see them.
Journalists do not just manipulate public opinion, however, it is just that they tend to see issues on persons from specific perspective and to adopt common values in presenting them. The channels and organizers of public opinion include: government, face to face communication, polls, e.t.c.
According to Asemah (2011, p.41),the media performs the status conferral function where the media creates prominence for issues and people by giving them coverage. Media attention enhances attention to people, subject and issues. this is based on the fact that when individuals and issues receive media attention, they achieve a degree of prominence which may sometimes be undue.
The danger is that other issues and personalities, which are not focused on by the media; suffer to the detriment of others. Some people identified with the mass media in order to strengthen their positions in the society. Perhaps the proliferation of mass media during political era is as a result of the power of the media to confer prestige on their owners and associations. The importance is that, the media carve out certain images for people in the society.
This is often as a result of their regular coverage of such people. In most cases, the media promote only those who have something in common with them. As the media continue to feature an individual, the individual will continue to gain prominence in the society.
The media can therefore elevate an individual to a certain position to the extent that the members of the public will begin to look at such an individual as very important. Okunna (1999), every mass media in a given society can play important political role in the social system. The media in addition to providing information about the political process can confer status and legitimacy on political leaders and issues making them appear more important and right.
The mass media also performs the watchdog role in the society by serving as the eyes and ears of the public. News media provides information and alert us of the changes that takes place around us. The newspaper has long been called the watchdog of a free society. In performing its watchdog function, the media in Nigeria watch over the government, its three arms and the entire society so as to keep their performances up to the expected standard that would encourage the development of the country.
The surveillance function of the mass media is its basic responsibility. They survey the environment and report to the people in order to reduce uncertainties and increase the probability that the audience will react to conflicts and changes in a rational way. The media in their surveillance activities scout round their environment and bring news of development, danger, threats to national stability, and threats to public welfare and so on.
News about happenings at home and far-away land is also brought to the people. Media organizations employ correspondents who are often sent on beats to find out what is happening in their immediate and remote environments. These surveyors gather news items and transmit their reports to their media organizations that will in turn, make an informed citizenry.
The information function of the media is the most important.
Every day of our lives, we are witnesses to the incredible power of the mass media to provide us with all sorts of incredible information. This is what news and many other contents of the mass media are all about.
The media also performs educational functions in the society whereby, through the mass media we get to be educated. The mass media generally have messages that are meant for instruction and teaching. The mass media broaden and deepen one’s perspectives. They give knowledge and skills. Okunna (1999) says that the mass media play an important role in the education of the members of the society. Education according to Okunna, comprises intellectual development, acquisition of skills and capabilities and the formation of character. The media are involved in the transmission of the character necessary to achieve all aspect of education.
Newspaper has been the most conventional and popular medium of conveying local, regional, national and international news to the readers. Newspapers serve us the latest happenings in different parts of the world through a network of correspondents and news agencies. The national dailies employ their correspondents and reporters in all the major cities of the world.
The major newspapers such as The Nations, The Guardian, The Nigerian Tribune newspaper and many more of them shape and influence the views, opinion and attitudes of millions of readers throughout the nation. They are the guardian of liberty, civic and human rights in the civilized world.
The common masses can express their resentment, appreciations and criticism of the policies of state governments and the centre. The radio and television may have other attractions but the inquisitive nature of man remains unsatisfied till he goes through the column of newspapers.
(McQuail 2005, p. 235) says, “If we consider the media primarily in the light of their contents, then the option of idealism is indicated”.
The media are assumed to have a potential for significant influence, but it is the particular ideas and values conveyed by the media in their content, which are seen as the primary causes of social change, irrespective of who owns and controls. The influence is thought to work through individual motivations and actions. This view leads to strong belief in various potential media effects for good or ill.
A form of idealism concerning media also lies behind the view that changes in media forms and technology can change our way of gaining experience in essential ways and even our relations with others. At key moments in the societies, particularly the newspapers have played important social, cultural or political roles. In conditions of political oppression or commercial domination, it has often been an essential instrument of resistance and expression for minority movements.
Kamaal Nishant, a freelance writer consider that in a democratic set up where freedom of speech is a vanguard of parliamentary institutions, the newspapers have almost single handedly defended the rights of the citizens when the same were threatened and the events have shown that the newspapers were instrumental in bringing downfall of governments who have systematically defied the democratic institutions.
The newspaper act as a watchdog of the government administration and officials ever on the vigil for malpractices, corruption and indolence on the part of the government services. The newspaper bring the world much closer wherein one society responds to the needs of another, one country sympathizes with the requirements of another thereby cultivating and installing sense of belonging in the process. The newspaper has another unique distinction of having seen the good times, bad and turbulent, as the history unfolded past them.
A life without newspapers is hence a life unimaginable and incredibly hard in the sense it takes the life styles of mankind to the pre medieval times, reducing life to a mere existence. However, in the new age of electronic media, the newspapers have lost significance to people interested only in news and sports. Yet for avid readers of newspaper, these are very important to their daily lives.
According to Asemah (2011, p.37), mass media also performs the socialization function. The Nigerian mass media makes every effort to socialize the citizenry, the mass media puts together with other institutions like the family, church, mosque, schools and peer group help in socializing the people. Through the process of socialization, the individual is made aware of and internalises the value, norms and acceptable behavioural pattern in the society.
SUMMARY, CONCLUSION, RECOMMENDATIONS AND LIMITATIONS OF FUEL SUBSIDY IN NIGERIA
This study was undertaken to examine public perception of newspaper reportage of removal of fuel subsidy in Nigeria, using Kogi State University as the area of coverage. The study was able to examine and discuss exhaustively on how the public view newspapers’ reports on the removal of fuel subsidy and it explains what perception is all about and the functions of newspapers to the public.
This study also discussed the roles and problems of newspapers in the society and its relevance in invoking public perception in the society. All this were discussed in line with the statement of problems and objectives of the study.
This study works through the prism of social responsibility theory which explains how the media needs to merge freedom with responsibility in their duties to the society and the agenda setting theory was able to reveal how the media sets agenda for the public to follow.
Survey research method was adopted by the researcher in the research design to get the perception of students on the study. the researcher was able to distribute and administer two hundred and eighty two (282) questionnaires to the respondents of the study who are undergraduates of Kogi State University to gauge their perception about newspaper reportage concerning the removal of fuel subsidy in Nigeria.
Using the stratified and simple random sampling, the researcher employed descriptive statistics to present and analyze the demographic data of respondents while Likert Scale was used in presenting and analyzing the items or statements that made up the research questions. After this findings collected from the questionnaire were discussed in line with findings of other researcher in the review of literature.
Results from the findings of the researcher through the respondents’ response in the questionnaire revealed that the newspapers were fairly objective in covering the removal of fuel subsidy, majority of the respondents affirmed that newspapers were not bias but the public perception was not improved since there is hardly a form of feedback to newspapers’ reports.
Findings also revealed that majority of the respondents agreed that newspapers’ reports on the issue exposed government incompetence in formulating policies. In addition, findings also revealed that students of the institution supported the statement that newspaper gave necessary attention to removal of fuel subsidy in Nigeria by setting the agenda for public perception.
In carrying out this research, a problem was stated, backed up with objectives and research questions. This helped a great deal in identifying what should be the content of the study. However, result from the discussion of findings and thee summary were able to answer the questions raised from the statement of problem which is to investigate newspaper reportage on the removal of fuel subsidy and how such reports influences the perception of the public studying students of Kogi State University, Anyigba.
The answers to the statement of the problem as provided from the discussion of findings and summary were that the newspaper reports influences public perception of the removal of fuel subsidy, because newspaper provides vast information concerning the removal of fuel subsidy.
With the findings in the study, the researcher concludes that despite some of the positive impact of newspaper reports on the removal of fuel subsidy which includes objectivity, fairness and in-depth information concerning the issue, some demerit were found in its functions and responsibility to the public, such as favouring the government against the public, lack of feedback from readers and a passive nature towards ensuring that the government formulate policies only towards the good of the public.
FUEL SUBSIDY IN NIGERIA – PUBLIC PERCEPTION ON NEWSPAPER REPORTAGE