The political economy of deregulation and commercialization of radio broadcasting in Nigeria, 1992-2017: An assessment of access, participation, content and peacebuilding

Student thesis: Doctoral thesis


This work analyses the effect of deregulation and commercialisation of the broadcast media in Nigeria since 1992. Concretely it focuses on radio stations, the nature of their programming decisions and what informs them. It studies the effect of deregulation on three dimensions: a) Production and distribution of Programmes. The broadcast industry manufactures and distributes content, so when a deregulation policy is applied to communication industry, the immediate effect is on content production and how this content is distributed in order to remain in business and maximize profit. b) Pubic services function of these programmes in relation to development communication/journalism, education, peacebuilding, amelioration of hate speeches both online and offline, culture and social cohesion. In the early beginnings of radio broadcasting, attempts were made to make it a public service for citizens’ enlightenment, entertainment and education. British broadcasting was a pioneer of this tradition. This tradition remained for a long time before the policy of deregulation swept across the world. This work will analyse how deregulation and commercialisation may have affected the contribution of radio as Nigeria faces one of its biggest problems today: hate speech, ethnic and religious violence, radicalisation and terrorism. c) Access and participation for a broad range of segments in society, the rich, the poor, marginalized groups, women and others. In what ways have access and participation been constricted or improved for these groups as a result of deregulation and commercialisation of radio? It looks at hate speech in Nigeria, analysing its forms, dimensions and magnitude. It also, proposes strategies that could be used to ameliorate its impact. While legislation and regulations are potential strategies to consider, It argues that, even in this digital era, radio in Nigeria is still a powerful and popular medium in countering hate speech in the country, and if properly deployed, radio can be a potent tool in countering hate speech offline and online, although it would need to adapt programming for the new media generation to achieve this goal. Through the convergence of new media forms, radio can contribute in the battle against hate speech. The deregulation and commercialisation of the broadcast media was the demand of international political economy through the Structural Adjustment Programme and other economic revival programmes of the international financial institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. They were framed as market-driven policies that would reduce state-funded wastages and lead to economic prosperity, diversity and the ascendancy of market-driven democracy of choice. The conceptual frameworks and models that guide this analysis of deregulation and commercialization of broadcasting is a number of key ideas and theses on the literature of the political economy of communication as well as McQuail’s the Democratic Participants Theory. Analysis is on the ways in which political and economic structures and processes, in this case the public policy of deregulation and commercialization of broadcasting impinge upon the production, dissemination and appropriation of communication by economic forces seeking profit. The critical political economy of communication sets out to show how different methods of financing and organizing our communicative needs, including ownership have consequences for the range of discourses and representations within the public domain and for audiences’ access to them (Mosco, 2008; 2009; 2015). Under the Democratic Participant Media Theory, the primary role of the media is to ensure the individuals’ rights and society’s right to access relevant information. Providing a feedback mechanism for the people to answer back as a right, and the right to use the means of the communication process for their interaction and among their communities of interest, are critical issues raised by the theory. One of the key elements of the theory is access and participation for a broad spectrum of society not on the basis power, influence and wealth but focusing on communication as the right of every citizen. The theory advocates the freedom and rights of persons especially minority groups and their rights to access media and for the media to serve them according to their dictates and needs (McQuail, 1983:96-97; Asemah, E. S et al, 2017). This study employed qualitative methods of in-depth interviews and focus group discussions of listeners of four radio stations in the Federal Capital Territory Abuja, Nigeria. The study selected two radio stations that were established after deregulation and commercialisation and are privately owned. They are Raypower FM managed by the Daar Communication Company, later substituted with Vision FM operated by Vision Company Limited, Rhythm FM owned by Silverbird Production. It also selected one old public interest, public broadcasting station that is government-owned and still partly government-subvented, Kapital FM and also a new generation FM station established after deregulation but government-owned called ASO FM. It believes that such disparate stations would exhibit significant differences in our analysis of variance. The study also employs document analysis of programme schedules and two weeks of audio broadcasts of these four radio stations to triangulate and validate findings from the in-depth interviews and focus group discussions. The in-depth interviews and focus group discussion sessions were transcribed and the transcripts were uploaded and analysed, using NVivo, a qualitative research data management and analysis software. Thematic coding was done and major themes relating to the research questions were identified and classified in relation to basic concepts of the study. Codes identified from the theory and literature, as they relate to access, participation, content, programing etc. were used to code interviews and focus group discussions. The codes were also framed using questions that examined the issues of access and participation/content and peacebuilding. For this study, two weeks’ audio recorded broadcasts of the four radio stations audio recordings of broadcasts of four radio stations were analysed. The hardcopy textual programmes schedules were used for cross-referencing. In analysing the audio texts, the codes created by the researcher were guided by the key research questions of the study. The study found that there is some development and peacebuilding content on radio post deregulation but not enough. Only 37 broadcast hours out of 1008 hours of four radio stations’ broadcast hours in two weeks were devoted to development and peacebuilding content. Peacebuilding content was a paltry 8 hours of 1008 hours. It also found that there are instances of hate speeches on radio, post deregulation occasioned by the drive for profit and the privately-owned radio stations are, due to the quest for profit, more prone to disturb the peace and escalate violence But for the convergence between radio, cell phones and social media, access and participation would not have increased. There is more access for the poor and marginalized groups but not enough participation. The situation could have been worse without the emergence of cell phones, despite the multiplicity of radio stations. Higher levels of participation are not happening to any group without money. You can only produce your own programmes and broadcast them at the time of your choosing, if you pay for them. Despite improved access and participation for the poor, they do not contribute to the weightier issues of national development and governance, on the contrary, their participation is limited to whimsical, trivial and mundane issues like sports, riddles and jokes. Contrary to the concerns of political economy, post deregulation, radio stations are granting access and participation to the people who are in need for social justice and humanitarian concerns especially for the poor. We have tagged this new genre in radio broadcasting as “human rights radio”
Date of Award28 Nov 2018
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJose Manuel Perez Tornero (Director) & Cristina Pulido Rodriguez (Director)

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