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The aim of this study is to investigate Audience perception on coverage of political news programmes of Africa independent Television (AIT) in Enugu metropolis Enugu state. Three research questions guided the study. The data of this study were gathered through various Likert scale questionnaire. Statistical analyses of data collected were performed using, frequency distribution, percentages, and tables. A total of 400 copies of the questionnaire were distributed. The number of retrieved questionnaire was 280, representing 70% response rate. Results showed that audience attach importance to the status and pedigree of African Independent Television (AIT) hence influences their perception and believes and in the way they react to certain issues of life and act as a watchdog over the government. Finally the survey revealed that African Independent Television (AIT) political news coverage is of good quality, timely, precise and detailed political news programs. The researcher recommends that since the primary purpose of the media is to inform the public then media houses should ensure that contents of their news are absolutely free from bias, factual and relevant to the larger society.
1.1 Background of the study
In this era of digital technology and globalization of communication, the media industries have crucial role to play in creating awareness and giving first class information to the populace on issues emanating from the administrations and governance of their elected leaders. Research has shown that successful countries are rated on how well organized their system of government and political willpower as it affects their citizens’ standard of living. The way and manner a society is governed directly or indirectly reflects on the behavioural pattern and perception of its citizens. In a democratic society, the media especially the television station is the major source of communication between the government and its citizen. The media through the television stations disseminate information, news items, showcase political programmes, developmental projects and pitfalls of the various arms of government in a particular country.
Private owned television stations such as Africa Independent Television (AIT) has been known for promoting news and information related to politics and major happenings in the political industries around the world. Hence, there is close relationship between communicating political news and other political related news contents and citizens’ dispositions, attitudes, behavioural pattern and perception of their leaders. Viewers not only listen to news, they also analyse, select, make comments, give opinions and share comments on how they perceive media effects on politics generally. It is against this backdrop that the researcher seeks to investigate the perception of viewers/audience on political news coverage on television stations using Africa Independent Television (AIT) as her main focus. Efforts shall be made to find out the impacts of television in the dissemination of political news and
politics in general. How do audience and the general public perceive political news and other political programmes on Africa Independent Television (AIT) in terms of quality of news items, quality of broadcast and coverage, authenticity of news source, competency of staff to mention just a few.
An informed society, they say, is a rich society. In other to establish a robust and information rich society, adequate communication is necessary and a media house that has distinguished itself will definitely excel especially in the present political juggernaut around the world. AIT is a subsidiary of DAAR Communications Plc. DAAR Communications Plc is the foremost Independent Broadcast Organization in the Federal Republic of Nigeria pioneering private/independent broadcasting with the establishment of RayPower 100.5FM, AIT, Daarsat - The first fully Nigerian base digital multi-channel direct-to-home subscription TV and an indigenous station FAAJI FM. AIT political news cut across news on Legislation, Presidency, Political Institution and Government Institutions (http://www.aitonline.tv/live).
December 6, 1996 heralded the coming of a star in global Satellite Broadcasting, the Africa Independent Television channel 21. AIT provides a fresh slant to TV broadcasting with a unique programming theme that shares the African Experience with the wider global community. AIT channel 21 and AIT International share the same vision and a similar mission. AIT has a unique mission that of sharing the African Experience with the wider global community. With its fascinating cross-cultural theme and vibrant programme content, Africa Independent Television (AIT) aims to share everything that is exciting about the African experience with the nations of the world. The station logo and pay-off, AIT - Sharing the African Experience, symbolizes its vision: to offer on a daily basis, a refreshing but revealing insight into the African experience worldwide. This sentiment is proudly echoed in AIT’s corporate identity – AIT, Sharing the African experience.
With a thematic pay-off which emphasises the objective of sharing the unique African experience with the world, AIT’s mission is to enhance global understanding through an untainted appreciation of the world and its peoples. Unusual amongst global satellite broadcasting stations, AIT is motivated by uniquely altruistic aims to promote a methodical reduction of tension and friction and foster a greater appreciation of humanity. It is committed to the task of bridging the gap in global communication which places Africa at the ruthless mercy of western perspectives, opinions and nuances. AIT’s main task is to project Africa from a holistic African prospective. Untainted, undiluted and absolutely original, AIT offers the world a new insight into the African experience (http://www.daarusa.com/ait).
The perception of audience regarding television news content has long been of interest to communication researchers. Perceptions of credibility have been found to be influenced by the content of the news reports and characteristics of the news anchor, suggesting that perceptions of credibility may be influenced by presentation variables. Public perception is the aggregate of individual attitudes or beliefs in a system. It can also be seen as the complex collection of opinion of many different people and the sum of all their views or as a single opinion held by an individual about a socio-economic or political topic. Key component in the formation of public perception is “framing”. Framing is when a story or piece of news is portrayed in a particular way and is meant to sway the consumers’ attitude one way or the other. Social desirability is another key component in the formation of public perception. Social desirability is the idea that people in general will form their perceptions based on what they believe is the popular opinion. Based on media agenda setting and media framing, most often a particular opinion gets repeated throughout various news mediums and social networking sites, until it creates a false vision where the perceived truth is actually very far away from the actual truth. Public perception can also be influenced by public relations and the political media. Mass media utilizes a wide variety of advertising techniques
to get their message out and change the minds of people. From the 1950s, television was one of the main media for moulding public perception, but with the advent of the internet and social media, that has changed considerably. Public perception starts from an idea or suggestion being subtly mooted, mainly through the mass media. Questions such as why would the North always rule? The government is filled with corrupt politicians and what should the government do regarding public transportation etc. So when citizens gather they talk about politics. Generally, they proffer their opinions on what they think that their governments ought to be doing on this or that issue (Agbo, 2013).
In mass media, channels of transmission of news include: the press, radio, television and internet. All this media have specific technical-technological characteristics with which they transmit their news. The role of the mass media in creating and strengthening public opinion is very important. The advent of independent media houses in the present democratic settings has contributed to the growth and freedom of expression and perception. In modern societies, getting authentic information is critical to the quality decision making by the citizens and the legislators. The growth of the mass media and their capability to transmit information and messages to a large population at the same time combined with the ever ready good to go journalists have turned the media world into a large social institution.
In the past, the traditional media organizations have been the basic means of connecting the public with news on social and political world. For a longer period of time, such media have been observed as a means of preventing the citizens from knowing some of the misdeeds of the government especially in politics. Politics in the modern societies can be understood as a system organizing and governing the public way of life and taking care of the overall interests of the citizens. The role of the mass media in creating and strengthening the public opinion is pivotal. Hence, with the advent of independent media houses in the process of democratization, expressions and thoughts of the general public have been made easy.
Public perceptions could also be related to their attitudes, opinions, and believes on certain political news and political programmes; these sometimes influence their behavioural patterns and dispositions toward their political leaders and stakeholders. Public perceptions are also conditioned by three key elements: public, the message and the channel through which the message is passed. The television today represents a channel of information dissemination, such as the political happenings, events, quarrels and debates, the manner in which the television station package and transmit the information has an influence on the audience, since it is through the media the audience learn, judge, analyse, makes contexts and make informed decisions about their political leaders. Politics cannot exist without the voice of the media, because only through it, the public get to know the plans, activities and agenda of the political parties (Siljanovska and Ejupi, 2013).
1.2 Statement of the research problem.
One of the most common generalizations about politics is that today’s voters are less informed and less engaged than voters in prior generations. This perceived decline in political engagement echoes a decline in both exposure to news and the quality of political news. Television viewers has been waning steadily for decades, the network news shows have lost a third of their viewers, and the content of campaign coverage in these news outlets has shifted away from policy to scandals, gaffes, and the horse race. It is no wonder, then, that citizens are viewed as less equipped to make electoral decisions today than they were 50 years ago (Gilens, et al., 2009). Despite the efforts of the private electronic media to help in the growth and development of the country, by keeping audience informed about political activities in the country through their political news and programs, these media houses have short comings and these short comings have prevented them from serving the audience effectively. It is in this context that this work will study the audience perception of political news
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