Types of media ownership in Nigeria and examples

 

Media ownership patterns in Nigeria have evolved in close correlation with general developments in the political, economic and social domains. The history of Nigerian mass media began with the private ownership of newspapers from 1859 (when Iweh Irohin was established by Rev. Henry Townsend) to early 20th century when government owned newspapers began to trickle into the landscape. On the other hand, the history of indigenous broadcasting began from the government circles in 1959, with the establishment of Western Nigeria Broadcasting Service (WNBS) by the Western Nigeria government and subsequent entry into the landscape by other regions (Eastern Nigeria in 1960 with Eastern Nigeria Television, ENTV, and Northern Nigeria in 1962 with the establishment of Broadcasting Corporation of Northern Nigeria, BCNN, in 1962). It was not until 1992 that broadcast media industry opened up for private ownership to come in, with Decree 38, later Act 55, that deregulated broadcasting in Nigeria.

Since then, the media industry has continued to evolve with various kinds of ownership patterns making the industry more competitive and interesting. The country’s media industry has experienced tremendous development with the establishment of several print and broadcast media with audience members across the globe. It is fiercely competitive with very vibrant privately owned organizations giving government owned establishments a run for their money. With the entry of private media owners into radio and television business in the country after the broadcasting industry was liberalized in 1992, Nigeria began to witness amazing new entries that started lifting the status of the industry across the globe in terms of innovations and quality programming. Some business entrepreneurs came into the industry with chains of media businesses which they founded and nurtured to become some of the best in Africa.

The media landscape in Nigeria reflects different patterns of ownership. The media owner could be individuals, government, group of individuals, corporate organizations, among others. The ownership structure could come in different forms. It could be joint or individual ownership. An individual or corporate body could own a medium or chains of media. This article focuses on patterns of media ownership in Nigeria. First, let’s understand the concept of media ownership.

What is media ownership?

Media ownership refers to the possession and control of a medium of communication. Ownership of the media deals 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. The ownership of a medium may evolve based on partial or total financing of the medium either by an individual, an organization or a government. An example is the Cable News Network (CNN) which ownership has evolved over the years, shifting in terms of ownership structure from Ted Turner the initial owner, to Time Warner, and to AT & T.

Also, there are different reasons for media ownership. It could be to use the medium to achieve political goals. It could also be to achieve economic goals. In Nigeria, many newspapers are owned by politicians. An example is The Nation newspaper in Nigeria owned by Ahmed Bola Tinubu, a Chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC). There are several other politicians who own media organizations across different media sectors. The media could be used as agents of propaganda that will not publish contents against the owners. Online media ownership has also emerged as a strong aspect of the country’s media landscape. Among the leading online newspapers in Nigeria are Premium Times (owned by Dapo Olorunyomi) and The Cable (owned by Simon Kolawole). Ownership characteristic is a major factor in understanding the nature of media ownership in any society. This explains the sector in which the owners reside – government, private or co-operative.

Types of media ownership in Nigeria

The media ownership pattern in Nigeria is very interesting. Here are different types of media ownership in Nigeria.

Government ownership

This refers to ownership structure where the government is in charge of the funding of the media organization or has greater control of the shares. Funding of the media could be direct funding, loans and overdrafts from banks. Oftentimes, the editorial contents of government owned media are influenced by the government. This affects the quality of content and ability of such organizations to compete with privately owned media. Government in one way or the other determines what may or may not be published or aired by such organizations making them an extension of the government in power.

There are several examples of government owned media in Nigeria. Every state in the country owns radio and television stations, including newspapers. Whether these organizations measure up to the competition in the nation’s media landscape in terms of quality of content or regular appearance on the newsstands (for the print media) is another issue. Currently, there is no Federal government owned newspaper in Nigeria. Daily Times used to be owned by the federal government but ownership has since shifted to Folio Communications (owned by two brothers – Fidelis and Noel Anosike) which officially assumed ownership of the newspaper on September 3, 2004. The New Nigerian Newspaper is owned by Gaskiya Corporation, an establishment jointly owned by 19 Northern states in Nigeria.

Private ownership

This is the most dominant media ownership pattern in Nigeria. Private individuals and corporate organizations own top leading media establishments in Nigeria and enjoy dominance of the media market in the country. Private ownership could come in different forms among which are cross media, chain or corporate ownership. It’s either the individual or corporate body involved has a larger share in the funding of the media establishment or it is fully owned by the individual or body concerned.

Private ownership of the print media has existed right from the first day in the history of the Nigerian mass media with the establishment of Iweh Irohin by Rev. Henry Townsend in 1859. The early press in Nigeria were dominated by newspapers owned by private individuals, mostly nationalists interested in using the publications in the struggle for independence. The history of indigenous broadcasting in Nigeria began with government ownership of radio and television stations, when Western Nigeria Broadcasting Service, WNBS, was established in 1959. Private ownership came into the broadcast sector in 1992 with the deregulation of the industry through Decree No. 38 (later Act 55 of 1999). For the electronic media, the National Broadcasting Commission was set up under an Act of the National Assembly No. 38 of 1992 to give licenses to private individuals to own the electronic media. One major advantage private ownership of the media has over government ownership is the opportunity or freedom to criticize the ills noticed in the government.

Several examples of private media organizations exist in Nigeria. From Punch, This Day, Vanguard, Daily Trust, The Nation, Daily Sun, and The Guardian (for newspapers) to Africa Independent Television (AIT), Channels TV, TVC, Arise News Channel, and Silverbird (for television), Nigeria Info FM, Ray Power FM, Cool FM, Beat FM (among many others for radio); private ownership of media in Nigeria has made the industry very competitive with so many stations offering quality content to audience members in Nigeria and beyond. With the popularity of the Internet, many private media houses have online presence that has expanded their audience base to every corner of the world. Online newspapers such as Premium Times and The Cable are among the leading media establishments in Nigeria, with many internet radio and television stations also making impressive impact in the industry.

Chain ownership

This is a type of ownership where an individual or organization owns more than one outfit within the same media category. Here a person or group owns chains of radio stations. Another person could own chains of newspapers, may be two or three newspapers. The chain ownership pattern focuses on ownership of a number of organizations within the same line (may be newspapers, magazines, or electronic media). Chain ownership refers to the same media company having numerous outlets in a single medium, a chain of newspapers, a series of radio stations, a string of television stations or several book publishing companies.

Chain ownership in Nigeria applies mostly to newspapers and radio stations. There are a number of publishing groups and communication establishments in Nigeria which fall within this category. One very prominent example of chain ownership of the media in Nigeria is Nigeria Info FM, Cool FM, and Wazobia FM, all owned by Amin Moussalli, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Aims Groups. Though chain ownership has more examples in the private sector, government can also engage in this form of media ownership. A typical example is Gaskiya Corporation (owned by 19 states of Northern Nigeria) which currently has four newspapers in its stable: New Nigerian, (daily) Gaskiya Tafi Kwabo (Hausa publication, published every Monday and Thursday) New Nigerian On Sunday and New Nigerian Weekly (published on Saturdays). Orji Uzor Kalu’s Daily Sun and New Telegraph newspapers constitute another example of chain ownership pattern in Nigeria.

Cross media ownership       

This is another common ownership structure in Nigeria’s media landscape. It refers to the ownership of a combination of media establishments in different segments of the industry. Under this ownership pattern, an individual or corporate body owns broadcast and print media at the same time. This could also include cinema houses, book publishing company and other entertainment establishments. A good description of this pattern of ownership would be for an organization to own newspapers and television at the same time or newspaper and radio or the combination of the three. Cross media ownership is when one company or individual owns several media establishments such as newspaper, magazines, musical labels, publishing company and so on.

There are several examples of this form of media ownership both in the private and government ownership sectors in Nigeria. Among the biggest of them all is Ben Murray-Bruce’s Silverbird Group which is one of the leading media and entertainment companies in the African entertainment industry. The company has hundreds of staff, and has become a huge empire that owns Rhythm FM (radio), Silverbird television, Silverbird Cinema, Silverbird Entertainment and Silverbird Galleria.

Another example is ThisDay Media Group owned by Nduka Obaigbena. The establishment owns ThisDay newspapers, Arise News Channel (TV) and ARISE Magazine. Bola Ahmed Tinubu is another giant media owner in Nigeria who operates cross media ownership pattern. He is the founder of TVC Communications, an establishment that operates TVC Entertainment, TVC News (television channel), Adaba 88.9 FM (in Akure, Ondo State), and Max 102.3 FM (formerly Radio Continental) based in Lagos. He is also the owner of The Nation newspaper. Raymond Dokpesi’s DAAR Communications company oversees media organizations that are among the best in the continent. They are Ray Power 100.5 FM and Africa Independent Television (AIT). Kabiru Yusuf’s Media Trust Limited is another example of cross media ownership in Nigeria. Media Trust is a company based in Abuja that publishes the English-language Daily Trust, Weekly Trust, Sunday Trust and the Hausa-language Aminiya newspapers, as well as a new pan-African magazine, Kilimanjaro. Amin Moussalli, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Aims Groups, which was given as a example under chain ownership, also serves as a good example here. He also owns Cool TV and Wazobia TV, together with Nigeria Info FM, Cool FM, and Wazobia FM.

Conglomerate

This is another media ownership pattern common in Nigeria’s media landscape. This is a situation whereby an owner of a media organization runs other types of businesses which are not necessarily media or entertainment businesses. Conglomerate ownership means the ownership of several businesses one of which is a media business. For example, the owner could have a newspaper along with private school, chemical, fertilizer, cement rubber or plastics factories, or a liquor brewery. The owner could have controlling shares in a number of media related businesses while running other businesses. This is what a conglomerate is. In this kind of ownership, there could be interlocking of directorships, which means the same persons will be director of a media company as well as of manufacturing industries or financial corporations.

Some business owners who are for instance, transport or lorry company directors are directing affairs in newspaper, television or film production companies. It could be that their main business is a high profit industry, but they run a media company for prestige or to exercise social and political influence on decision makers in the private or public sector and in the government of the day. Such a conglomeration may not always support an unbiased or dispassionate presentation of events, issues and personalities. There are giant business moguls who are in the news business as well as in entertainment, media distribution and network business. They own newspapers, magazines, radio, cable TV and television channels, among others.

Many politicians in Nigeria enjoy this kind of ownership. For example, Senator Ifeanyi Uba (Authority newspaper) and Sir Emeka Offor (Blaze FM) are among many Nigerians that own other businesses, including media houses. Ahmed Bola Tinubu who was mentioned as example under chain ownership is also a good example here as he has other businesses apart from media outfits.

Joint ownership

This is an ownership structure where the government and individuals jointly own a media establishment. It could also be an ownership structure by a group of individuals who have shares in the establishment, running it as co-owners. This could also be ownership of a media house between a community and a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), charity organization or even group of individuals. Under this arrangement there is equal partnership between the owners. The two parties finance the media organization together.

Joint media ownership structure is not very common in Nigeria. There are a few examples. One typical example is the ownership of New Nigerian newspapers by the 19 States in Northern Nigeria. The newspaper was first established by the 1966 by the Northern Nigeria government. It was fully taken over by the Federal Government in August 1975 and placed under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Information. It was handed back to the Northern states in 2006 and they presently own and control it under a joint ownership. It is believed that the joint ownership pattern led to the eventually death of the newspaper as most of the states failed to give the publication the attention it required in terms of funding. The newspaper now operates only its online version.

Another example of joint ownership is Radio Sapientia 95.3 FM Onitsha, a private commercial radio station situated in Onitsha, Anambra State. It is owned by and registered in Nigeria under Sapientia International Media Centre. Reports have it that the company is jointly owned by a group of successful entrepreneurs who came together to establish it under a joint ownership pattern. The station was handed over to the Catholic Church to manage, but the company is still jointly owned by private individuals.

At a point, Daily Times newspaper used to operate a joint ownership pattern with private individuals who owned minority shares in the company, before it was bought over by Folio Communications Limited. The federal government of Nigeria had majority shares in the company while private individuals had minority shares. But the federal government sold its majority shares to Folio Communications which eventually acquired the media house.

Party ownership

This is the ownership of a media house by a political party. The party funds the establishment and therefore controls it. The parties’ interests influence the content of their publication. Party ownership pattern is very rare in Nigeria. What exists is ownership of media establishments by persons with political affiliations. For instance, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, leader of APC owns The Nation newspaper, TVC (a television station), Adaba 88.9 FM and Max 102.3 FM (radio stations). Orji Uzor Kalu who is a member of APC owns Daily Sun and New Telegraph newspapers. Raymond Dokpesi who is a stalwart of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) owns AIT and Ray Power FM. There are so many other examples of politicians in Nigeria who own media houses. Either they are elected political office holders or they have sympathy for a specific party. Though these media organizations might claim they are objective irrespective of who owns the establishment, the fact is there is always the underlying need to protect the owners’ interest. This could affect freedom to report all kinds of stories without fear or favour.

Another scenario that could be likened to party ownership in Nigeria is government ownership of media organizations. By extension, the party in power controls the state owned media house to an extent. For instance, The Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) or Radio Nigeria will not air stories deemed to be negative to the President or damaging to the image of the government the way private stations such as AIT and Channels would do. Same applies to the relationship between state owned broadcast and print media, and the state government or their allies.

Conclusion

The mass media landscape in Nigeria is dominated by privately owned organizations in terms of spread, audience control and market leadership. Different kinds of ownership exist. There are single owners who operate just one station and have recorded huge success (such as John Momoh’s Channels Television, Sam Amuka’s Vanguard newspaper and Lady Maiden Ibru’s The Guardian newspaper). But most of the media houses with huge successes are operated under chain ownership (Orji Uzor Kalu’s Daily Sun and New Telegraph newspapers, Amin Mousalli’s radio stations, among others). Under cross media ownership there are very successful organizations such as Kabiru Yusuf’s Media Trust Limited that has newspapers and a magazine, Bola Tinubu’s newspaper and broadcast media, Ben Murray-Bruce’s radio and television stations, and Nduka Obaigbena’s Arise Media group which has newspaper, magazine and television houses. The industry also has conglomerates which exercise considerable influence on what is read, heard, and watched among the audience in Nigeria and across the world.

Online media ownership is also growing in Nigeria. Dapo Olorunyomi’s Premium Times, Simon Kolawole’s The Cable newspaper, and Philip Isakpa’s Business A.M. are typical examples of impressively successful online newspapers that have commanding share of the audience in Nigeria and beyond.

 

The Author

Chinenye Nwabueze

Nwabueze is a communication researcher with several years of lecturing experience in Nigerian universities.

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