NTA, AIT, FRCN bi­ased in 2015 elec­tions cov­er­age – EU re­port

Daily Trust - - NEWS - By Nu­rud­deen M. Ab­dal­lah

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.

Muham­madu Buhari

Good­luck Jonathan

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