Academic journal article Journal of Development Communication

Youth Culture and New Media: A Study of Telecommunications Advertisements in Nigeria

Academic journal article Journal of Development Communication

Youth Culture and New Media: A Study of Telecommunications Advertisements in Nigeria

Article excerpt

The first telecommunications company introduced into the Nigerian economy by the British colonial administration was known as the Posts and Telegraph (P&T), a government owned telecommunications outfit that was re-branded at political independence as Nigeria Telecommunications (NITEL), following the merging of the P&T with Nigeria's External Telecommunications (NET). "The network was an elite system that served the interest of the European colonial administration while Nigerians did not receive (any) service", observes Onwumechili (2001). In 1999 when Chief of Olusegun Obasanjo assumed office as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria there were about 400,000 telephone lines in existence. He eventually introduced the Global System of Mobile Telecommunications (GSM) in 2001. Two operators, MTN International Ltd (later MTN (Nig) Limited) and Econet (later V-mobile, now Zain) were initially licensed. Globacom entered the market in 2003, a company which in addition to GSM services also became the Second National Operator (SNO). The fourth GSM operator Etisalat entered into the arena in 2008.

Olatunji and Laninhun (2009) report that between 1999 and 2007, the mobile telephone sector of Nigeria's telecommunications industry witnessed a rapid growth. There were 35,000 GSM lines in 1999, which increased to about 37 million lines at the end of 2007 and has climbed to over 80 million lines at the close of 2010. The present researchers are interested in exploring the dominant cultural patterns exhibited by youth models in the telecommunications advertisements in Nigeria. The researchers also intend to find out about the dominant appeals in telecommunications advertisements, along with the predominant cultural symbols and monuments represented in the advertisements.

Conceptual Framework

In the present study, we rely on the definition of youths as proposed by Mulenga, 1982; Mufune, Lengure, Katembula & Osei-Itwechie, 1990; Makinwa-Adebusoye, 1991; and Olatunji (2007) who classified youths as persons between ages 13 and 30 years, male and female, regardless of their socio-economic status. Citing Philips (1997), Olatunji (2007) observes that more than 45 percent of Nigerians are youths, based on earlier population figures. The 2006 census figure puts Nigeria's population at over 140 million, but now estimated at over 150 million. This study investigates the dominant youth cultural trends exhibited in telecommunications advertisements in Nigeria.

The concept of culture has been adequately addressed in the literature (Hobbs & Blant, 1975; Potter and Samovar, 1994; Collier, 1994; Gibson, Ivancevich & Donnelly Jr., 1997). Succinctly put, culture refers to the totality of man in terms of his historical development, knowledge, belief system, science, technology, institutions, philosophical worldview, and so on. Collier (1994) says that culture is "a historically transmitted system of symbols, meanings and norms" and that culture is what people think, feel, say and do at any particular time. Moreover, we see culture as dynamic, learned, transmissible, interrelated, cumulative, universal, yet relative. Because culture is subject to constant changes, it is regarded as non-static or dynamic. Olatunji (2008) submits that the uniqueness and peculiarity of culture lies in the fact that "every cultural trait has meaning and legitimacy within its own cultural context and that every culture should be assessed based on its own criteria".

The advertising industry can conveniently be classified as both an economic or social institution, as Olatunji (2003) had done. In the words of De Mooij (2004) "culture is the glue that binds groups together", concluding that: "consumers are products of their culture and culture cannot be separated from the individual". Olorunnisola (2009) asserts that "cellular phones have become a part of the youth and popular culture". Citing a United Kingdom (UK) study (Gordon, 2006), Olorunnisola (2009) reports that over 90 percent of 15 to 25 year olds own a cell phone and use the text message service as a way of keeping the cost down. …

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