24 February 2013

Nigeria: AIT As a Plus to Media Pluralism in Borno

Maiduguri — Aray of hope awaits residents of Borno State with the commissioning of the two Daar stations -Africa Independent Television (AIT) and RAYPOWER last week as they now have to make a choice of where to express their opinions between these stations and the existing ones in the state.

Many residents believed that with the coming of AIT and RAYPOWER on air in the state they now have the choice to express their opinions especially on government policies which ordinarily state owned media cannot air.

In the past the State owned Borno Radio Television (BRTV) was always accused of being biased, especially on issues that are critical of government. They were always accused as being the mouthpiece of any government of the day similarly the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) and the Peace FM, which are Federal Government parastals, are also said to always protects the interest of the Federal Government. Even the state government, which is an opposition party, accused the Federal Government stations of not airing their opinions.

But with the coming of AIT and Raypower to the state the people of the state have an alternative to express themselves, especially on issues that concern their living and the way they are being govern.

Some communication experts noted that the coming of the stations will serve as impartial medium since it is an independent medium unlike the BRTV whose editorial policy is swayed towards protecting the interest of the state government while NTA/Peace stations have sympathy for the federal government.

A media practitioner, Misheliza Gomna said the coming of the stations to the state was a welcome development because, according to him, the stations will make other media sit up.

" The coming of AIT/RAYPOWER to the state is a welcome development because it will ensure competition. Now other stations in the state will have to sit up because they know that viewers now have alternatives. There is need for them to follow the ethics of the profession in the discharge of their duties.

Also some residents of Maiduguri who spoke to Sunday Trust expressed joy over the coming of the stations.

Mohammed Bunu, a resident said "the coming of these stations is a welcome development because it is coming at a time we are approaching 2015 political campaign. I think with the coming of the station residents will have to make a choice on where to express their opinions on government policies and issues that affect them. Also, opposition political parties can now have a medium to express themselves because in the past they accused state owned media of not airing their opinions. I think the state government too, now has an added medium to express it's policies and programmes.

Another resident who is a civil servant, Usman Babagoni said "the state has never had it so good in terms of media coverage. I think with the coming of AIT our cultural heritage will be showcased to the world so that the impression the outside world has about the state due to the insecurity problem will be eroded.

But some residents doubt if the stations will not be too loyal to the state government at the expense of other newsmakers due to the role the state government played in the coming of the stations.

Babayo Ahmed, a resident said "I doubt if the stations will carry anything critical of the state government because of the role it is playing that ensures that the stations come to air."

Chairman of Daar Communications, High Chief Raymond Aleogho Dokpesi who was present at the commissioning said "we are to project the positive image of the state to the outside world". Because, according to him, what is happening in the state especially the insecurity problem is misrepresented.

The media guru urged the state government to see the station as its own, saying they are ready to assist the state in tackling insecurity problem.

In the same vein, the General Manager of the Daar Stations in Maiduguri, Mr. Patrick Mark told Sunday Trust that the stations will project and report on the activities of the state government, project the culture of the people of the state to the outside world and give the people of the state the opportunity to participate in national discourses and express opinions on issues that concern them.

Governor Kashim Shettima seems to have recognized the importance of the coming of the stations to the state as he expressed commitment to the take off the stations. Already work is going on the perimeter fencing of the station, the fencing was funded by the state government. Also the governor promised to pay fifty percent salaries of workers of the stations for six months.

At the commissioning, Shettima appealed to the stations to partner with his administration in its effort to restore peace to the state.

The governor assured all media outfits in the state of his cooperation in order to achieve meaningful and sustainable development of the state.

He said, the opening of the stations would boost and improve coverage of the state.

"There is no doubt that the opening up of the Television station will boost and improve coverage of the state in terms of disseminating government policies and programmes and getting feedback, yearnings and aspirations of the people on government actions" he said at the commissioning.

The state government too seems to be aware of the challenges that the stations will pose to their own media as the Secretary to the State Government, Ambassador Baba Ahmed jokingly said the state was working towards repositioning its own media and give AIT a run for its money.

Whether the stations will live up to expectations, hopes and aspirations of the people of the state, time will tell.

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