Every nation in the world has a media system that reflects the nature of that nation. Different interest groups and individuals struggle for media attention and appearance in order to dominate the society with their ideas and interests. When groups and individuals with various interests become prominent in the media, this provides an opportunity to affect the political agenda and influence the content of ongoing debates as well as political decisions. The media system is a mirror of what any society looks like, the nature of activities in that society and relationship between government and the people, among others. Comparing media systems involves looking at the relationship and differences between the nature and operations of the media in different countries, that is, the type of media ownership in the countries you are looking at, the kind of media that exist in these countries, the nature of media audience in the countries you are comparing, how many newspapers or magazines are printed, the number of broadcast media that exist in these countries, the impact of social media in these countries, government influence in these countries, the challenges faced by the media in these countries, among other factors. First of all, let us look at the meaning of media system.
What is media system?
A media system refers to the entire media in a country, the ownership structure, interest groups and other influences that give the media sector an identity. Media system is used to describe the coordinated set of principles, laws, ideas, and procedures relating to the media sector in any country. It consists of the nature and operations of the media in a country, including the media landscape (that is the kind and number of media that exist in a country, where they are located, nature and structure of ownership), relationship between and among the media in a system and with other institutions in the society. Other things that make up the media system are the nature of the audience, how the media make money, media ownership, control and regulation, and to some extent journalism training and professionalism. The term media system looks at the number and spread of the mass media in any society – newspapers, magazines, radio, television, the Internet media (blogs and other society media), including how alternative media (traditional or indigenous media) influence the society.
There is a relationship between the media system and other structures, systems and institutions in the society. This relationship also influences the media and this is why it is said that media systems reflect the nature of the society within which they exist. Politics, culture, religion, and the economy are among some basic societal factors and forces that influence a media system. The single most influential factor on a media system is the political system. The political system largely creates the model or ideology within which the media in various countries operate. This is because of the power of government and politics to shape the media, determine how the media operate, create laws to control and regulate the media, and also create enabling environment for the media to survive. There are certain things you use to know what a media system looks like in any society. They are called indicators of a media system. They are the features of a media system; that is, the characteristics that indicate what any media system looks like. Let’s briefly discuss them.
Difference between type of media ownership and models of media systems
Media ownership is clearly different from model of media system.
Ownership refers to the possession and control of a medium of communication. It has to do with how a specific medium of communication (such as radio, television, newspaper, etc.) is funded or financed, managed, who calls the shots especially in terms of control, among other issues. This could be based on partial or total financing of the medium either by an individual, an organization or a government. The basic ownership structures in different countries are government ownership, private ownership, and joint ownership which is a combination of ownership of a media house by government and private entities.
Under these categories (especially private ownership) you could have conglomerates (a situation whereby an owner of a media organization runs other types of businesses which are not necessarily media or entertainment businesses), chain ownership (which is ownership of more than one outfit within the same media category, that is, ownership of a number of organizations within the same line – here a person or group owns chains of radio stations, or chains of newspapers, or a string of television stations, or several book publishing companies), cross media ownership (ownership of a combination of media establishments in different segments of the industry at the same time – broadcast and print media, cinema houses, book publishing company and other entertainment establishments), or party ownership (ownership of media by political parties).
Models of media system refer to the political ideology or frame that guides the existence of the media in any society. It basically has to do with the way government and other political interests determine how the media operate, whether the media are free to operate independently or government has overbearing control on what the media report, and the way they are funded. So here we could have authoritarian model of media system where the media under serious control of government in terms of what they report and which media are allowed to even practice. We also have the Western model of media system which is basically the libertarian system, where the media are free to operate independently but are expected to do so while observing their social responsibility to the society. Many other countries reflect a combination of different models of media system by ‘claiming’ to be democratic countries operating Western libertarian models but also showing some form of authoritarianism by oppressing the media.
Certain basic press theories gave rise to media models and these models still exist in various societies today. These theories are called the normative or classical media theories. They are authoritarian theory (where every institution including the media, are controlled by the ruling elite and the state which controls all institutions uses devises such as licensing, censorship, and harsh punishment of government critics to force press compliance to state control), libertarian theory (suggests that the press should be free to provide accurate information for the public because the public is made up of rational individuals capable of discerning accurate or distorted information), social responsibility theory (says press freedom should go with certain obligations which recognize societal needs and aspirations. It is also called Western concept, and says the press has responsibility in preserving democracy and that government intervention in form of regulatory bodies could be necessary to protect and promote public interest and that), and Communist theory (also called soviet-communist theory suggests that the state owns and controls every institution, and the media exist to promote the communist ideology). Two other normative theories that were later added are democratic-participant theory (where the media facilitate a two-way participatory communication process between the public and government, with numerous community media existing in the landscape), and development media theory (says the mass media should foster development communication, giving priority to development needs of the society but also suggests that the state can intervene or restrict media operations in the interest of development, thereby justifying direct state control of the media). These theories reflect the nature of media systems over the years, including in modern times. Most media systems have traits of a mixture of two or more theories depending on the government in power (dictatorship or truly democratic government). The normative theories gave rise to models of media system which are;
Authoritarian Model of Media System
This is the system which is explained by the Authoritarian press theory. This media system is characterized by one-way, top-down information flow from the rulers to the people largely because editorial content of the media is determined by the rulers.
Western Model of Media System
This is media system prevalent in developed Western nations of Europe and North America. A number of nations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America also practice this system at least on paper. The Western media system operates within the libertarian and social responsibility tradition which uphold a free and responsible press.
Revolutionary Model of Media System
This is a media system which exists in nations where the citizens are engaged in struggle against dictatorships or any form of repressive regime. Countries governed by military regimes (as in Nigeria before the civilian rule), apartheid government (as was the case in South Africa), and brutal communist government (as was the case under Fidel Castro of Cuba) have media organizations operating in the revolutionary tradition.
Communist Model of Media System
The communist media system operates in communist countries such as China and North Korea. This is a media system that projects the supremacy of the communist party. Media organizations in this system are government owned; private media ownership is not allowed.
Development Model of Media System
This is a media system that functions basically to mobilize a nation for nation-building. It operates in developing nations with limited democratic space in the political system. The media are used by the government to promote development ideas giving little room for criticism or opposition of such policies. This system is not the ideal media system explained by the democratic participant theory where the media facilitate a two-way participatory communication process between the public and government, with numerous community media existing in the landscape.
Media Systems in Africa (Similarities and Differences)
There are similarities and differences in media systems in African countries. But the similarities tend to be more than the differences and this is due to similarities in political systems in most African nations.
For instance, there is high similarity in the media systems that exist in Sub-Saharan Africa (which consists of countries that exist south of the Sahara, that is, West, East, Central, and Southern African countries). In these Sub-Saharan African Countries, almost every nation operates a democracy. Since these countries operate democratic government, it means they have a free, responsible, and independent press, where both private individuals and government freely participate in media ownership and operations.
The basic differences are seen in the existence of dictatorships and insincere “democratic” regimes in a number of countries in the continent. Dictatorships claim to be operating democracy which should ordinarily consist of an independent media system but covertly adopt authoritarian measures to suppress the press. Against this backdrop, most African nations (depending on the nature of leadership in place) witness a mixture of Western and Authoritarian media traditions. The media systems in Africa have historical similarities, beginning with media established by colonial authorities before the advent of pro-independence indigenous media.
Nigeria has one of the largest media sectors in Africa. During the long period of rule by military dictatorships in Nigeria, traits of authoritarianism overshadowed Western-Libertarian components of the media system. The military used repressive laws to engage in heavy press censorship, forcing some print media (popular among which are The News and Tell magazines) to adopt revolutionary media strategies in operating “underground”. However, the return of civilian rule since 1999 has opened up the space for a more sincere existence of Western media system characterized by independent journalism. Nigeria has a vibrant pluralistic media landscape with about several functional national dailies, several local newspapers, magazines, government and privately owned radio and television stations, vibrant government owned news agency (News Agency of Nigeria) cable television channels, and Internet-based media. Pluralistic media landscape refers to existence of diverse kinds of media, both government and private media, which disseminate diverse and independent opinions without fear of government brutality. This is one basic feature of the Western model of media system which operates in Nigeria, Ghana, Togo, and most Sub-Saharan African countries. The opening up of broadcasting for private participation in 1992 brought landmark transformation of the media landscape from government monopoly to pluralistic competitive private participation. The social media are also making serious impact in Nigeria’s media system and the entire society.
Government ownership and private media ownership are common in most Sub-Saharan African nations. This is unlike in Egypt where government and political organizations have a hand in almost all media organizations. Independent journalism exists in various degrees in Sub-Saharan African countries except where dictatorships and sit-tight presidents use covert means to suppress the press. Nigeria and Ghana which have media systems that reflect what obtains in most African counties have relatively free and independent press in the continent.
The media landscape in Africa is urban-centered, with the major media established in major cities and sub-urban areas, giving relatively minimal coverage to issues in rural areas. This urban-centric media orientation is related to the level of economic development in these nations which concentration basic amenities and infrastructures in urban areas, encouraging rural-urban migration and discouraging rural-based media and the practice of rural-oriented investigative journalism. However, nations such as Ghana and South Africa have community media scattered all over the rural areas which encourage rural participation in development communication, as part of efforts to break the urban-centric media landscape in these nations. South Africa has many local free community-newspapers funded through advertising revenue.
Formal and informal regulations (press laws, codes of professional ethics, and regulatory bodies) are used to guide professional practice among the media in African nations. In Nigeria, the Nigeria Press Council (NPC), National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) are among regulatory bodies that enforce press laws and guide adherence to journalistic ethics. In South Africa, the Independent Communications of South Africa (ICASA) regulates broadcasting in the country.
A major ethical problem prevalent in media systems in most African nations, especially Sub-Saharan Africa is brown envelope syndrome – the practice of accepting gratifications from news sources for doing journalistic work.
Local language media, some with strong ethnic or regional orientation, are popular in the African media system. In Nigeria, newspapers are published in English, Yoruba and Hausa languages. South Africa has newspapers published in English, Afikaan, Zulu, Xhosa languages. In some countries, media audiences also have regional or ethnic segmentation, leading to a situation where some newspapers are popular among people from a particular region because of ownership structure and perceived political orientation of such publications.
Social media presence is also dominant in the media systems of Sub-Saharan African countries. There are several blogs, YouTube channels, online forums and news platforms which numerous audience members rely on for their information needs. In Nigeria, Nairaland, Lindaikejiblog, Instablo9ja, Yabaleft, and Laialasnews, are among numerous social media platforms Nigerian audience rely on for daily news reports and gist.
Similarities and differences between media systems in Nigeria and Togo based on the following yardsticks:
Types of ownership
Models of Media Systems
Challenges of media in each country
Summary of Similarities in Media Systems of Nigeria and Togo
There are similarities in the media systems of Nigeria and Togo. Among these similarities are;
- The two countries have diverse media of all kinds in the print, broadcast and social media sectors. There are several mainstream and social media platforms in the two countries. Among the major print media in Togo are Carrefour, Le Combat du Peuple, Le Crocodile, Forum de la Semaine, Liberté, Motion d’Information, Le Regard, and Togo-Presse. Some of the major radio stations are Nana FM, Radio Kara, Radio Lome, Radio Togolaise, and Zephyr FM. There are big television houses in Togo also and some of them are LCF television, Telesports TV, Télévision Togolaise, TV2, and
- Nigeria has big media houses among which are Punch, ThisDay, The Guardian, Vanguard, Premium Times, and The Nation Others are FRCN, Nigeria Info FM, Cool FM, Capital FM, many other state radio and television states, including several other privately owned states, internet radio, and online news platforms.
- There are regulatory bodies in the media systems of these two countries. These regulatory bodies which are either government agencies or are formed by journalists themselves, ensure sanity in the media state and put the excesses of the media in check. In Nigeria there are such regulatory bodies as Nigeria Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Nigeria Press Council (NPC), Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), among many others. In Togo there are Haute Autorité de l’Audiovisuel et de la Communication (HAAC), Togo Press Council, and Observatoire Togolais des Médias (OTM) which means Togolese Media Observatory.
- Both countries have code of ethics for journalists.
- Both countries have media laws that guide professional practice and also protect the interest of the public from excesses media practices.
- The social media sectors in the two countries are very active and they impact the society with their reports.
- The two countries are facing the challenges of poor or irregular payment of salaries for journalists.
- The two countries are facing the challenge of brown envelope syndrome (media corruption) basically due to poor salaries and welfare of journalists.
- Media ownership patterns in the two countries are similar. There are government owned media, private media organizations, and joint ownership in terms of group of individuals and organizations owning media corporations.
- The model of media system in the two countries is the same. Both countries are operating democratic system of government and this means they are operating the Western libertarian model of media system that promotes free press. Though the governments of these two countries also suppress press freedom sometimes, the major model of media systems in the two countries is Western model which promotes social responsibility of a free press.
- Local language media exist in the two countries.
Differences between the Media Systems in Nigeria and Togo
There is hardly any major difference in the media systems of Nigeria and Togo due to the similarity in models of media systems in the two countries and the democratic government they operate. However, the differences that exist are in the following areas;
- Nigerian media sector is bigger than the Togolese media. This is basically due to some factors such as higher economic level of Nigeria when compared to that of Togo, more enlightened society in Nigeria, more vibrant and competitive market for media operations in Nigeria, and existence of a better enabling environment to operate media business in Nigeria.
- Nigeria also has a more advanced media sector than Togo. The advancement of media houses in Nigeria in terms of equipment used in media houses and better manpower, is higher in Nigeria than Togo.
- There also more journalism and communication training schools in Nigeria than in Togo.
- Nigeria also has a bigger movie industry than Togo and this impacts greatly on the media system.
Basic challenges in the Media Systems of Nigeria and Togo
Nigeria, Togo and other Sub-Saharan African countries face similar challenges in their media sector. We use Nigeria and Togo as examples here. These are two countries which practice democracy and this means the media system in these two countries follow the Western libertarian model of a free and independent press. But the problem is that there are flashes of authoritarianism where government sometimes seems to use repressive means to suppress press freedom. Basic challenges in the media systems of these two countries are as follows;
- Brown envelope syndrome is prevalent as a dominant unethical practice in the media sector of these two countries. This shows there is corruption in the media sector in the two countries.
- In Togo, there is lack of highly trained manpower to operate media organizations at professional level, according to Media Sustainability Index report.
- There is also lack of professionalism due to unethical practices among media workers. The widespread corruption in the two countries also affects the media system. The media sector does not exist in isolation. It is a reflection of the entire society and both Nigeria and Togo have a major challenge of corruption in every sector of these nations.
- Poor remuneration is a serious challenge in the media sector of these two countries. Journalists in most Sub-Saharan African countries are poorly paid, and in some instances, the salaries are delayed for months. Salaries in the profession are very low or even non-existent, creating further vulnerability to corruption, and other pressures likely to push journalists into unethical practices.
- Press brutality and suppression of press freedom by government and its agencies exists in the two countries. Just like their colleagues in Nigeria, journalists in Togo face brutality and harassment in the hands of government and their agencies. This is a major challenge faced by media workers in the two countries. For instance, on the night of December 29, armed security forces arrested the director of L’Indépendant Express newspaper (one of the leading newspapers in that country), Carlos Ketohou, at his home in the capital, Lomé, took him into custody, and accused him of defaming the government. This action was condemned by Committee to Protect Journalists (cpj.org). He was released on January 2, by the police, on the condition that he be available to authorities “at any time.” On January 4, the Broadcast and Communications High Authority (HAAC), the country’s media regulator, ordered L’Indépendant Express to cease operations, including its print and online publications (according to a copy of the decision, Ketohou, and media reports). Journalism practice in Togo is not entirely free, just like in Nigeria.
In Nigeria, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) reportedly sanctioned Africa Independent Television, AIT, Arise TV and Channels for what it calls, a gross violation of the broadcast code, because they used unverifiable online video footages from the social media in reporting the Lekki Shootings following the End SARS protests. The stations were fined N3 million each over the roles they allegedly played in the escalation of violence across the nation. The three stations were accused of airing unverified images of the alleged shooting of protesters at the Lekki Tollgate. These are among the challenges faced by the so-called free press in Nigeria.
- The state media in the two countries operate exclusively at the service of the Any political party in power controls the state-government owned media and gives the opposition party little or no opportunity to use the state media to project their interests.
- Most journalists and editors practice self-censorship for fear of being chastised, dismissed, or even assaulted. This is an extension of the fact that the press are still not free to carry out their job without fear or favour.
- There is also an attempt to crack down on social media and suppress their freedom to report stories in both Nigeria and Togo, especially when such reports are critical of government. Nigerian government has made efforts to pass the Social Media Bill seen by many as an effort to suppress the freedom to air views through such platforms. In Togo, the publication director of the independent La Nouvelle was detained in May 2016, and served two months of pre-trial detention on suspicion of defaming the minister of security in online posts. This was the first reported incident in Togo of a journalist serving prison time for a post on social media.
Despite the existence of the media systems of Nigeria and Togo in Western Libertarian model, there are signs of authoritarianism in these media systems. There is no total freedom for the press in these countries to operate, even if they are observing their social responsibilities to the society. But the press in these two countries are relatively free when compared to what obtains in autocratic or communist media systems.