The Nigerian media must tweak their operational templates and self-innovate to cope with the economic impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic on the industry across the world.
Some senior media practitioners gave the advice during a tweet chat organised by the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism on May 3 to commemorate the World Press Freedom Day.
Held under the theme “The Economic Impact of COVID-19 on the Media Industry,” the event featured three contributors from different media houses in Nigeria.
In her contribution, Ejiro Umukoro, the pioneer General Manager of MEGA 89.1 FM Warri, Delta State, said for the media to thrive under the new environment wrought by COVID-19, they must stop their knee jerk reactions on business issues.
“Our mental dependency on ‘government aid’ shows a very sick infrastructural decay at play in addition to the media’s lack of self-innovation, having to kowtow to ‘scratch-my-back-I-scratch-your-back’ revenue models.”
The Chief Executive Officer of Women FM, Lagos, Toun Sonaiya, lamented that media houses in Nigeria have not received any government support to cope with the economic impact of COVID-19.
“The media industry in the western world, though affected, were provided a lifeline by their various governments through intervention measures but the media industry in Nigeria, on the other hand, was left in the mud with most private-owned media vulnerable and badly hit,” she said.
Ms Sonaiya said being at the front line as the health sector, the media industry has been grossly affected by the pandemic, also because of a large infrastructural deficit in the industry.
“A silver bullet will not work across all media platforms. The pandemic affects the whole world so not many places to turn to for help. We must think our way out of this like everybody else”, Mrs Sonaiya said, while recommending ways the industry can mitigate the economic effect of the pandemic.
She said media houses can consider boosting income by providing subscription-based services while charging amounts that their audience can afford.
“Financing good journalism, will have to rely on memberships, subscriptions and donations. Post COVID-19 media business will not be business as usual. You either adapt or die. I believe this time calls for a global solidarity for media collaboration,” she said.
In his own remarks, the Executive Director of International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), Dayo Aiyetan, urged the media to strive for their own survival.
“The media cannot fold its hands and wait for palliatives from governments. It is time to put on our thinking caps and find creative means of survival”. he said.
Mr Aiyetan said the media can diversify and be creative about other means of revenue rather than seeking palliative from the government.
He warned that government funding of the media has the danger of making the media beholden to the government.
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Mr Aiyetan said even in the wake of the pandemic, “there are opportunities available to be explored by media houses and journalists.”
He said media houses can also partner in carrying out projects, share the costs and credits.
“Media houses must see new opportunities in the new reporting that the pandemic has thrown up. Misinformation is huge. Data is a big thing now. There are creative things media houses can do to produce unique content that would stand them out,” Mr Aiyetan said on how to generate revenue in the wake of the pandemic.