A University Don, Dr. Isiaka Aliagan has enjoined media owners and managers to convene a national summit to discuss the future of the media and work out a blueprint to salvage the industry in Nigeria.
Aliagan who also encouraged the government to include the media in its post-COVID-19 financial bailout as one of segments of the economy that are already distressed, noted that a healthier media industry can only further help to entrench democracy and good governance.
Aliagan, who is the Head of Department, Mass Communication, Kwara State University (KWASU) stated this Wednesday, while delivering a lecture themed: Post COVID-19: Mitigating the Effects on Media Practitioners” at the Kwara NUJ Webinar 2020, jointly organized by the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Kwara State Council and Goldrush Online Services.
The University Don said that Newspaper Proprietors of Nigeria, the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria and Professional Unions need to re-strategize on the way out for the media and set up a lobby group to interface with government on how to help the media organizations.
“I am therefore, using this medium to call on the government to approve financial bailout to the media, which had been canvassed by the Nigeria Union of Journalists in its letter to Mr. President on May 13, 2020 and the request for bailout made to the Minister of Information and Culture by the Broadcasting Organization of Nigeria, and to fully implement the recommendations of the Vision 2020 Committee on reinvigorating our media industry”, he said.
Aliagan emphasized that “COVID-19 has not spared any aspect of human life, economically, politically and socially but it has disrupted social and cultural interaction. And so, like every other businesses that has suffered from the lockdown occasioned by the spread of the pandemic, journalism business has taken a brutal bash, and the spiral effect may last beyond COVID-19 pandemic.
“In Nigeria, despite the donation of money running into billions of naira by individuals and organizations to government in the course of tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, and in spite of the fact that some arms of government claimed spending a fortune in social enlightenment on COVID-19 prevention in the media, many media houses defaulted in payment of salaries, cut salaries or asked staff to stay off work to avoid salary payment.
“In all of this, one of the critical sectors that will be and already is badly hit is the media which has suffered depletion in audience/readership and revenues as a result of the liberalization of the information space resulting from the internet and new media technologies.
“Newspapers have had to embark on shedding of bloated workforce, shutting down of unproductive bureaus, and introduced several cost-cutting measures, including outsourcing of newspaper distribution, engaging freelance, instead of permanent staff, to survive, which are in line with measures taken in advanced media world”, he added.
While proffering solutions to the challenge of the pandemic of the media industry, Dr. Aliagan said that: “there is a lot of catching up to do. In terms of adequate manpower, we are not yet there. Our training institutions must move from the analogue to the digital.
“Journalism trainers must be updated on current trends in the media world and our training studios should be well equipped, so that we can be able to train journalists of the future that will fit into the digital journalism era. Our current sets of journalists have to go back to the drawing board to retrain themselves so that they can fit into the new era in journalism.
“Since the emergence of the internet and new media technologies, everything about journalism has changed, from the tools to the mechanics of content creation. It will be easy to shed staff now for most media organizations, because technology has reduced the number of labour needed for most tasks.
“A digitally retrained journalists, therefore has a better chance in being retained in present job or possesses opportunities for better job. While the business arm of the media tries to find a way out to the present logjam of revenue and readership/audience drain, let each journalist also try to rebuild themselves so that they may become marketable professional in the digital era”, he said.