Effects Of Government Ownership And Control Of Mass Media On Media Objectivity (A Case Study Of Esbs)

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The media of mass communication has two important broad sub – divisions, the electronic and the print media. The print media involves mainly the magazine and newspapers. These are regional and national informers which provides retrievable, researched and indepth news – stories of events.

Since its inception in 1859, courtesy of Henry Townsend, print media has always been owned by either individuals, groups of individuals, organizations or government, both state and the national. Due to the pluralistic nature of control of print media, the competition thereof, the print media has always been a vital instrument of enlightenment. Infact, it was instrumental in the struggle to gain independence for Nigeria in 1960. However, the individuals or groups that establish newspapers/ magazines have always used it to propagate their interests. But on the whole, it has played a major role in informing, educating and entertaining the society.

The other arm of mass communication media is the electronic media. It comprises of the radio and television. It ha not been as enterprising as it should be. Neither is it as competitive as the print media. This is attributable to the majority ownership and control of the electronic media by the government. This attribute is not a recent phenomenon. It can be traced to the political experience of the western region of Nigeria in the first republic, where:

“During the 1962 – 1965 political crisis in The western region, broadcasting was employed freely by the government of the day as an instrument for waging an offensive against opposition “.

Following the activities of major political actors then, the government saw its efficacy, then decided to only trust the electronic media into the care of its royals. It therefore toyed with the idea of tying the radio and television to what Modlyne Opara of ESBS called “it’s apron”. Though the constituent assemblies that smithed the 1959 and 1979 constitutions for the country did not approve monolithic control of the electronic media by the government, government went ahead in constitutionalizing its grip on the media. The president of the federal Republic of Nigeria was vested with the right to permit the establishment of the electronic media. The constitution states inter alia:
“……that besides federal and state governments, individuals and corporate bodies were also eligible to own and operate radio and television stations, provided that they received the presidents permission to do so”

It has been widely acclaimed that the government had to take such decision because the people were not emotionally and materially set for individual ownership of the electronic media, due to its vulnerability to abuse and the high capital required to establish it.

Also considering that :

“ At local, national and international levels, the media are powerful

brokers of information by their very nature and availability, the mass media have been recognized as …… Most potent tool……in the modern world”.

If we have to go by records, the government’s insistence on moving and controlling the electronic media is in contravention of the universal declaration of human rights article 19 of the UNO. This article states that :

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and seek receive and import information and ideas through any media

and regardless of frontiers”

Nevertheless, Nigerians of the contemporary time are increasing decrying government ownership and control of radio and television station because the station are increasingly losing its credibility. Yet experts suggested reasons why the government continues its claw – like hold on the radio and television. Adidi Ugo, a senior lecturer in mass communication department of the university of Lagos (UNILAG) attributes this fear by the government:

“ The factor under tying the restlessness of government.

To free radio and television from its contributions is nothing but


But government has defense against this. It claims that private ownership would lay volatile Nigerian publics open to selfish manipulation. Hence it can only trust such huge responsibilities into the hands of its loyals.

Plausible as the government’s interest might sound, considering experiences of the political past and the present time where certain political interests were propagated at the expense of the masses. Chiefs executives of government are known to have abused the electronic media by using it to further their own parochial causes. In addition, the governments ownership and control of the electronic media – radio and television has not been without some hindrance on the media operations and further of its integrity. If not for anything, J.E. Aliede, a expert believes that “Due to the government control of the electronic media, they lack credibility and objectivity”. This can be accounted in the caliber of workers they parade. Aliede described them as “……. Poorly educated editors and reporters …….” These half baked staff are ill remunerated, making them have lean and financial base and thus easy targets for manipulation by the government and its agents.

Following this background therefore, we have resolved to seriously determine. The effects of the age long ownership and control of the Enugu state Broadcasting service by the state government with a particular interest at the FM arm of the establishment. We are not forgetting that John C. Menril in his paper “A conceptual overview of world journalism” noted that “A nation’s press or media system is closely tied to its political system”. Since “A nation’s journalism cannot exceed the limits permitted by the society; on the other hand, it cannot lag far behind”. Also Dr. S. A. Ekwelie has shown through a study that the needs of a developing country is to use the media for “evolution of new psychological personality”. That is what J. E. Aliede believed to be “empathy”.


According to “ A brief history of ESBS” published on the official commissioning / launching of Enugu state Broadcasting service (ESBS) stations, independent Layout , Enugu on 20th March 1992.

“What is today known as Enugu state Broadcasting service (ESBS) has undergone a great deal of metamorphosis. It was first opened on October 1, 1960, as one of the memorable ceremonies marking Nigeria attainment of independence, and was then known as eastern Broadcasting Corporation (ENBC).”

As the many state government that inherited it changed, the name of the establishment charged. Hence, it has borne such names as east central state broadcasting service (ECBS). This was later changed to Anambra Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) following the creation of Anambra state. This name was later modified to Anambra State. This name was later modified to Anambra Broadcasting Service in 1985 following the creation of Enugu State, the station assumed the name Enugu State Broadcasting Service ESBS in 1991.

The Enugu State Broadcasting Service transmits on the following channels and frequencies.

  1. Enugu Television (ETV) = Channel 50 UHF

  2. Radio FM (1) = 585KHz in the medium wave band

  3. Radio FM (2) = 96.1MHz in the FM band

  4. AM radio = 62.1 KHz in the medium wave band

As you would have guessed , the ESBS comprises at present a functional radio station transmitting on channel 50 UHF. Since our study is in the effects of government ownership and control of the radio 2 FM of the ESBS, we are going to concentrate our efforts on the radio 2 FM station.

The reason for our choice is obvious as Eugene S. Foster had earlier written that:

“Radio today occupies a unique role in our society. While our attention at one level is focused on television, we rely more heavily on sound during those hours not reserved for full attention entertainment with video. Although, the traditional radio stations sought to be all things to all people. Today’s radio comes closer to meeting the basic needs for companionship so prevalent in an impersonal and computerized world”.

If radio enjoys all these, the FM radio enjoys more advantages. Mrs. Modlyn Opara, a one – time acting Director ESBS radio 2 FM said that, “the FM is mainly for playing music (entertainment) and adverts,” because of the many advantages it enjoys over the amplitude modulated (AM). Following these over – riding factors, the ESBS exploits the Fm for its combined service broadcasts as news and state executives broadcast. On the whole, the FM enjoys the following advantage over the AM namely: The FM is;

• Free from static noise and disruptions.

• FM station come in equal strength within reception range.

• It provides undistorted reception.

• It transmit with greater fidelity.

• It better suited for community and city broadcast.

Besides all these sterling qualities, the FM like other electronic media, according to J.E. Aliede of Ebonyi State Newspaper corporation,

“……. Makes great contribution towards societal improvements. It is among other things the source of news , information, education, entertainment, opinion leadership, conferring status and creating symbolism. The way they do it, no matter the place, determine their contributions to national development or otherwise. The government always exploits this medium avenue to sell its politics, policies and program propaganda to the society. And since the government funds this medium, it sets up the “………organizational structure of the management as to control and manage …..” it the way it likes, posits Aliede in a lecture.

It is interesting to note that in so much as the station is referred to as “the station with the right attitude (thanks to Kelvin Ugwu a presenter on ESBS FM radio) it is not very accessible to all and sundry. Its accessibility depends on whether one’s view is for or against the government of the day. For most state government and in fact most governments, The rule has always been that “ those who are not for us are against us”. Hence their view had not best find place in the government media (or do we say megaphone). The boards of directors, news editors and presenters etc. All these personnel are accredited government loyalist who must protect the interest of the government always.

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