INFLUENCE OF OWNERSHIP ON MEDIA CREDIBILITY: A STUDY OF EBONYI BROADCASTING CORPORATION, (EBBC), ABAKALIKI
1.1 Background to the Study
Communication media are on the move, constantly evolving, and changing the world we live in. Their diversity and impacts have ushered in the contemporary information societies where the exchange of information remains the dominant economic activity and source of power. Consequently, individuals, interest groups and even governments have intensified efforts to own and control at least a media outfit, with which to tell their own side of the story. However, the age-long impediment to the right of man to communicate continues to rear its ugly head, only undergoing contextual metamorphosis with time. For instance, in the agora age, the right to communicate incurred the pangs of conservatism in the guise of freedom of opinion. During the Gutenberg galaxy, it suffered suppression as freedom of expression. In the 19th century, it acquired the name press freedom under the battering ram of religious interest and political authorities, while credibility question is the current nomenclature under which the right of man to communicate is gagged(MacBride, et al 1981:172).
It should be noted that, the advent of powerful electronic media outlets in the early decades of the 20th, Century, and their subsequent deregulation in many countries, (including Nigeria in 1992] are all part of the struggle to guarantee the right to communicate. Thus, the proliferation of media organizations, increased feedback mechanisms via digital technologies and wider audience outreach are some of the new dimensions of communication potentials won through the struggle. Dominick (1996:222) agrees that the emergence of broadcasting, with its “talk shows programmes is simply democracy in action and a triumph of free expression”.
The above, notwithstanding, there is no denying the fact that any media organization (whether government or privately owned) which desires to make the needed impact in the contemporary competitive media environment must pass through the acid test of audience trust and confidence. It is no longer enough to garbage in and out of the media any stuff and hope by so doing, a media organization is assured of successful media practice. The evolution of contemporary active audience and the prevalence of performance excesses on the part of individual media outfits have created a shift in the understanding of media credibility as a virtue which does not reside intrinsically in an object, person or piece of information, but assigned to a media house as a result of a judgment made by a subject (Savolain, 2007:5).
According to the Society of Professional Journalists (2004:1), “credibility refers to objective and subjective components of believability of a source or message… its components include trustworthiness and expertise defined from the user perspective”. Credibility, as the Society (2004) further notes, has links with media roles and motives, user demographics and values, prior attitude on issues and media use. It can weaken the validity and acceptability of a message. (Nworah, 2007:3).
It is the opinion of Lewis (2003:1) that corporate organizations (including the media) experience pressures from an increasing interest across the gamut of stakeholders, from consumers and employees to investors and legislators. This increasing interest, Lewis (2003:1) further notes, “is in the values and standards of the companies behind their products and brands”. In order to engender public trust and confidence, Lewis (2003) explains that putting these values and standards at the heart of business, not an adjunct to commercial activity, should be taken more seriously and be integrated further into the business vision and brand management. Herein, lies the essence of good management pattern.