Public Perception of Newspaper Reportage of Fuel Subsidy Removal in Nigeria

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

  • 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.

  • STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM

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.

  • 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:

  1. Assessing the role of the newspapers during the period of the fuel subsidy saga.
  2. Examining the effect and impact of the newspaper reports during this period.
  • Examining the various public perceptions and response to the newspaper reports on the fuel subsidy removal.
  1. Ascertaining some measures and policies through which newspapers may improve the relationship between the government and the public.
  • RESEARCH QUESTIONS

The following questions have been drawn to guide the study:

  1. Did the newspapers report the fuel subsidy removal in Nigeria?
  2.     Did the newspapers report the public perception of the fuel subsidy removal?
  • To what extent was the issue reported?
  1. Of what effect were the reports in the newspaper?
    • 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.

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