What Nigerian Media Needs To Do To Be Sustainable: Experts

Media professionals and academics met on Wednesday to discuss the financial viability and sustainability of the media in Nigeria. The experts spoke at a conference organized by the International Center for Investigative Journalism (ICIR) in Abuja to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the organization. Speaking at Wednesday’s event, ICIR CEO and Founder Dayo Aiyetan said it is imperative to have a national conversation about the future of media in Nigeria, particularly its viability and profitability. Aiyetan said Wednesday’s event was organized to serve as a starting point for the discussion. He called on professional bodies and media associations to organize a broader event on the future of media. “Many news organizations are not profitable due to declining sales and ad revenue. Many media companies cannot pay salaries and are laying off staff. The media in Nigeria is hemorrhaging,” she said, adding that industry leaders need to discuss how to find profitable ways to run media businesses. The essential obligation of the media is to hold the authorities to account, Aiyetan said in his opening speech. “And by doing that, we’re just complimenting the work of the government’s anti-corruption agencies.” He added that public officials should see the media as partners if they are serious about fighting corruption instead of resorting to harassment and intimidation of journalists. In his presentation, Bongani Sinqoko, who delivered the keynote address on ‘Sustainability Imperatives for African Media’, acknowledged the fact that the media industry in Africa, and indeed globally, is experiencing existential challenges. Sinqoko, a strategist at Arena Holdings, one of Africa’s largest English-language newspaper publishers in South Africa, argued that to overcome this sustainability challenge, media must have a purpose and diversify their business model. “There’s a lot to our business besides selling ads and subscriptions,” he said. “To build sustainable media, you must have a clear purpose and pride in competition and a culture of excellence.” He said that media owners need to abandon conventional sustainability measures and innovate their way out of the industry disruption media is facing today. Mr. Sinqoko, however, cautioned that all innovative models must not undermine the editorial independence of the media. The pattern of news consumption has changed with the arrival of social networks, added Sinqoko; hence the need to “transition from a news business to a content business.” Panelists speak In her presentation, Kadaria Ahmed, founder of Radionow, said her main responsibility as a journalist is to hold power to account, not run a business. However, “I am of the opinion that content should be produced that allows me to do the job properly in an environment where accountability journalism is not commercially viable,” she said. The other currency he needs and is missing from the Nigerian media is trust, he said. “The Nigerian audience no longer trusts the media. As far as they are concerned, we are bought by the politicians and the cooperative members. On top of that, we do ourselves a great disservice because we have become part of the Nigerian problem.” Our journalism must put the country on the right path, said Ms. Ahmed, and the “first element of sustainability that the media needs is that the country works and that functionality of the country depends on the role played by journalists”. For her part, Abigail Ndisike, professor of Mass Communication at the University of Lagos, argued that modern media must address issues of consumer needs. “You must do a categorization and audit of the audience. This would help to know what is the best way to reach the audience, be it through influencers or in any other way. This would help maintain and sustain the association with the audience.” Additionally, Angela Agoawike, CEO of Radio Omalicha, said that “media managers have to find ways to maximize what they do.” There must be a strategy to manage the media business and the media as the Fourth Estate of the Kingdom, he said. That balance needs to be there for sustainability without taking away the media’s role as gatekeepers, she added. Media organizations need to come together and come up with a clear policy on the operating environment that includes technology, among other factors, the don said. Similarly, Umaru Pate, Vice-Chancellor, Federal University, Kashere, Gombe State, said media houses need to adopt innovative business models to overcome sustainability challenges. “The evolution of the internet and changes in technology have changed our audience’s demand for content,” he said, noting that the government should support the media with relevant policies. “Amazon and Google are taking all the big announcements today. We can have a part of that if we have a favorable policy from the government,” said the deputy foreign minister. In his presentation, the former editor-in-chief of the Daily Trust newspaper, Mannir Dan-Ali, insisted on the need for collaboration to foster growth and drive engagement in the media industry. The opportunities in this business are limitless, he said. “We have to stay engaged and collaborate and engage the market,” said Dan-Ali. In his goodwill message, Dapo Olorunyomi, editor of PREMIUM TIMES, congratulated ICIR on its ten years of impact. Mr. Olorunyomi aligned himself with previous speakers who called for innovative models to sustain the media business. According to him, the media must see themselves as producers of technological products in order to operate sustainably. “We have a need to build the media as a knowledge organization,” Mr. Olorunyomi said, urging the media to ensure adequate vigilance to uphold Nigeria’s democracy. “If this country is to survive, the media must be an instrument that drives accountability,” he said. 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