NTA, AIT, FRCN biased in 2015 elections coverage – EU report
Major Nigerian media outlets were biased while reporting the 2015 elections campaigns, a report released by the European Union said.
The Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), African Independent Television (AIT), Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), and Ray Power’s coverage of the elections were skewed in favour of the incumbent Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) government and President Goodluck Jonathan, the European Union Observation Mission Nigeria General Elections 28 March and 11 April, 2015, said in its report released this month.
The stations provided little coverage in both their news programmes and other non-news editorial programmes to the then opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) and its presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari.
The report said all the six states-owned radio stations monitored favoured the party in power-be it PDP or APC.
Between January 16 and April 9, the EU observation mission monitored three national televisions (NTA, AIT and Channels TV); two national radio stations (FRCN and Ray Power) and three daily newspapers (Daily Trust, The Guardian and ThisDay).
In addition, since January 26, the EU mission monitored six state-controlled FM radio stations representing all geopolitical zones. The radio stations monitored were in Borno (Northeast), Kaduna (North west), Plateau (North central), Enugu (Southeast), Lagos (South west) and Rivers (South south).
In contrast, Channels TV demonstrated “generally balanced reporting of key political contestants.” While the three newspapers monitored “offered relatively balanced and diverse coverage,” according to the report.
Analysis of the report shows that, in the period before the 28 March elections (starting from 16 January), in prime-time news, PDP received 57 percent of NTA’s political coverage, and 43 percent of FRCN’s.
Also, Jonathan gained extra airtime through coverage of presidential and Federal Government activities, which amounted to another 27 percent of NTA airtime and 35 percent of FRCN’s.
In contrast to PDP’s total 84 percent coverage, APC received 11 percent on NTA.
On FRCN, PDP’s 78 percent contrasts with ACP’s 13 percent.
Of the overall primetime news coverage dedicated to presidential candidates, NTA and FRCN allocated to Jonathan 85 percent and 77 percent, respectively, the report said.
Inequalities were even more apparent in other NTA prime -time programmes that almost exclusively covered only the ruling party, Jonathan and government, merging formal official functions with campaigning.
In contrast, during the two-week period following the 28 March elections which Buhari won, NTA and FRCN provided notably larger shares of airtime to the APC, resulting in rather balanced coverage of the two leading political parties.
Similarly, private broadcasters, DAAR Communications owned broadcast media with nearly national coverage AIT and to some extent radio Ray Power, gave PDP increased coverage. AIT allocated 62 percent of its primetime news coverage to PDP (and an additional 13 percent to PDP officials in government), compared to 23 percent given to APC.
Also, other primetime editorial programs with PDP having 55 percent of the coverage (with an additional 24 percent for PDP officials), compared to 17 percent allocated to APC.
AIT (and to lesser extent also NTA’s,) airing of anonymously sponsored programmes damning APC’s key political figures inflamed a tense volatile campaign environment prior to the presidential elections, the report said.
Ray Power allocated 42 percent to PDP and 23 percent to PDP’s officials, while APC received 26 percent of morning and evening news coverage of contestants and relevant
for political actors.
Ray Power’s coverage of political actors and contestants was more balanced in its other editorial programmes, featuring a wider range of actors with PDP receiving 28 percent of coverage, the largest single share, according to the EU mission report.
In contrast, Channels TV demonstrated generally balanced reporting of key political contestants, allocating in its main news programme 40 percent to APC, while PDP was given 33 percent and PDP officials 16 percent.
Similarly, other prime time programmes offered 45 percent share of coverage to APC, compared to 37 percent allocated to PDP and an additional 12 percent given to PDP officials.
“Three monitored newspapers, The Guardian, This Day and in particular Daily Trust, offered relatively balanced and diverse coverage,” the report said.
Daily Trust offered 47 percent coverage to APC, 41.5 percent to PDP, with Presidency and federal government given 5.5 percent and 1.4 percent each, the report said.
On coverage given to candidates, Daily Trust gave Jonathan 55 percent, Buhari 44 percent, among others.
In its coverage of parties, The Guardian gave PDP 47 percent and APC 39 percent. On candidates, Jonathan 71 percent, and Buhari 28 percent. Jonathan got additional 5.7 percent for presidency and 1.5 percent for federal government coverage.
ThisDay gave PDP 53 percent and APC 34 percent in its parties’ coverage. On candidates, Jonathan got 63.9 percent and Buhari 35.9 percent. Another 7.6 percent and 1.7 percent were given to presidency and federal government respectively.
Like the two federal government-controlled media, also all six state government-controlled FM radio stations monitored (between 26 January - 9 April) favoured the party in power (at the state level), be it PDP or APC, the report said.
These stations allocated notably larger shares of their coverage to incumbent governors seeking re-election or incumbent parties’ candidates, it said.
This tendency was particularly visible in the stations providing more airtime to gubernatorial contests and local news, with the most extreme case being the Bornobased FM radio, where the current governor/ candidate of APC Kashim Shettima dominated with 99 percent of coverage, almost shutting out his PDP opponents Kashim Imam/Gambo Lawan.
Similarly, the Kadunabased FM station gave a total of almost 97 percent of coverage of gubernatorial candidates to the then incumbent PDP governor/candidate Mukhtar Ramalan Yero, shutting out his APC opponent Nasiru el-Rufa’i.
Plateau-based Peace also showed clear preference towards the ruling party (PDP), focusing however on the activities of the then incumbent governor contesting for a senatorial seat Jonah Jang (he received 4 hours 25 minutes of news coverage) rather than gubernatorial candidates (who all together received 2 hours 27 minutes).
Enugu, Lagos and Rivers based FM stations were also allocating significantly larger shares of coverage to the gubernatorial candidates of the governing party (APC in Lagos and Rivers, and PDP in Enugu).
However this tendency was less visible given the focus of these media (in particular Enugu and Rivers) to zonal developments. This increased variety could be attributable to them operating in more diverse media environments compared to the north which has a lower level of media concentration.
The report said during elections the government regulatory body for broadcast media, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), “remained passive and overall failed to challenge obvious bias in particular in the state media.”
“Similarly, the regulator’s passiveness in response to the frequent airing of anonymously sponsored materials damning APC representatives, aired on federal-government controlled NTA and private TV AIT for more than two months before the 28 March election day, indicates incumbent bias,” the report said.
The EU observation mission recommended that the federal government- controlled broadcasters be transformed into genuine public service broadcasters enjoying editorial and financial independence from government.
Similarly, state government-controlled broadcast and print media should also gain greater independence from governments.
The independence of the NBC be strengthened including through legislative requirements for an open and transparent mechanism for appointment of NBC’s board and director, free from control by any particular political party, involving the participation of civil society and organizations of media professionals, the report said.
NBC regulatory authority should be strengthened through the power to grant broadcasting licenses (also to expedient issuing of licenses including for community radios), its monitoring capacities developed, and requirements be established for NBC public reporting on monitoring findings and sanctions applied.
It said that media organizations wishing to air/publish paid for campaign materials be required to publicize their conditions and charges prior to the start of the campaign period, and maintain equal conditions and prices for all contenders during the entire period of campaign.