Journalists on Journalism

Getting the News in Nigeria

This article appeared in the December 2001 World Press Review (VOL. 48, No. 12)

For most Nigerians, the electronic media are more accessible and affordable than print, according to available statistics. Radio is cheap and available everywhere in local languages. It takes precedence over the television because of the country’s epileptic power supply, the readership culture, literacy level, and the cost.

Given the literacy awareness skewed in favor of the South, most Northerners clutch a portable radio wherever they go to keep informed. After all, information is power. In most offices countrywide, workers have small radios as companions in addition to reading newspapers. Radio, perhaps, plays the most important role in the information consumption pattern of most Nigerians, followed by the television where visuals often tell the story even when words are not understood. The print medium brings up the rear.

Nevertheless, the English-language print press is venerable and vibrant. It has contributed tremendously to moving Nigeria toward democracy. But for Nigeria’s ordinary people, print is problematic for several reasons: incessant cover price increases, low purchasing power, and the low level of formal education. In contrast, the cheap, local-language papers are booming.

In summary, the consumption dichotomy is based on formal education. Radio is the most widely consumed medium in Nigeria and on the North-South divide, a higher percentage consumption is in the North while the South has the higher consumption of television, newspapers, and magazines. The educated elite tend to stay informed through multimedia-newspapers, magazines, television, Internet, and radio.