Global News Flow in Africa: Nigerian Media Coverage of International News, 1979-1995

Article excerpt

Introduction

In 1995, about 50 international communication scholars in 50 countries began remapping the post-cold war news terrain in order to create a baseline data for international communication research. Stevenson and Sreberny-Mohammadi, directors of the 1995 news flow study, noted that "the world has changed radically" both "politically and technologically" and the need for a baseline data for international news flow has become urgent. Although the 1995 project may be described as a replay of the 1979 international news flow study (Sreberny-Mohammadi, Nordenstreng, Stevenson, and Ugboajah, 1985) in which Stevenson and Sreberny-Mohammadi were key collaborators, the emerging global news agenda, topography, and players remained uncharted after the cold war. Stevenson and Sreberny-Mohammadi (1995) pointed out that the "new forces of nationalism, new struggles for development and democracy, new concerns about human rights and the environment all clamor for news media attention" in the post-cold war global village.

This study, a part of the global news flow analysis in 1995, focuses on Nigeria and compares the 1995 study with the 1979 study. Nigeria was selected for this longitudinal comparative analysis because it was the only African country analyzed in the original study in 1979 although the American group later analyzed a few more African countries. With dozens of newspapers, magazines, television and radio stations, Nigeria has the largest media market in Africa. As a top ten country by world population size, Nigeria is a major media auditorium with a population of 104 million people, out of Africa's 750 million people. Its population is expected to reach 205 million by the year 2020, bringing the country to the fifth largest position by world population size (Johnson, 1997, p. 135). The media in Nigeria are the most vibrant but not necessarily the freest on the continent (Eribo, 1996).

The objectives of this study are to (1) examine the distribution of news by topics and determine the changes, if any, that have taken place between 1979 and 1995, (2) examine the geographic distribution of international news and determine the changes, if any, that may have taken place between 1979 and 1995, (3) determine the sources of news in the mid-1990s in comparison with earlier findings, and (4) provide an advance analysis of the trends in news flow in an African country based on Stevenson and Sreberny-Mohammadi design for a worldwide remapping of international news flow. As a scholarly inquiry, the goal of this study is to contribute to existing scholarship. The full results of the global news flow study will take a longer time to reach the international academic community and this analysis of Nigerian media is one of many analyses resulting from the 1995 global news flow study.

Significance of the Study

Beyond the size and potentials of the media market in Nigeria, this study is a significant spark in the post-cold war analysis of international news flow. It provides a comparative base for past and future news flow studies which may promote better understanding of how nations report international news. As the host of the 1996 conference of the 113 nations Non-Aligned Movement, Nigeria was the center of attention as participants at the conference reminded the world that information imperialism did not die with the termination of the cold war. An analysis of international news coverage by Nigerian media just before the conference is not only significant to international communication scholarship but also timely.

The Unsolved Problems of News Flow

Sreberny-Mohammadi, Nordenstreng, Stevenson, and Ugboajah pointed out in 1985 that:

The demand for a New Information and Communication Order was first officially introduced at the Non-Aligned Symposium on Information in Tunis in March 1976 ... At the nineteenth session of the General Conference of the UNESCO, held in Nairobi, in autumn 1976, there were many heated exchanges about information imbalance and about bias in news reporting, particularly with regard to the portrayal of the developing world. …