By Rakiya A. Muhammad
A research report on the impact of COVID-19 on Nigerian Media operation and survival has recommended the ‘SCARS Intervention Model (SIM)’ to tackle the problems triggered by the pandemic.
SCARS is an acronym for Systems Reform, Capacity Building, Academia-Industry Linkages,
Research and Development, and Sustainable Funding.
ActionAid Nigeria, which commissioned the research, said it became necessary following feedback from journalists on a silent financial crisis rocking the Nigeria media industry during the Humanitarian Crisis Reporting training it organised in June 2020.
The Country Director Ene Obi added:” This research is based on the quest for better understanding and answers to the extent to which COVID-19 has affected media operations in Nigeria and how Civil Society Organisations and other relevant stakeholders can better support the media to stay afloat and perform its function as the Fourth Estate during a pandemic.”
She said despite the difficulties, the media had continued to rise above all odds to ensure that truths are uncovered, and information is disseminated at different strata of society.
“There is a need for the government to lower tariffs on media consumables which are largely imported, grant tax holiday, and above all, build a solid economy that guarantees growth and investment,” the report pointed out.
“The federal government through the Central Bank of Nigeria should create a single digit loan package to support media organisations in the country.”
With the significant reduction in the number of staff available for work in newsrooms and the advent of virtual reporting, it noted the need for a new policy framework to address the emerging trend.
“Since the operations of the media have now shifted largely to the virtual space, the high cost of data and the poor-quality service by telecommunications operators become major issues of concern for the survival of the industry,” it observed.
The report urged stakeholders to devise ways of ensuring the media have access to data that is both affordable and strong in connectivity.
According to it, “since the media fulfil social responsibility, it would not be too much to consider data subsidy and rebates on tariffs for the consumables used by the industry.”
It underscored the need for media organisations to provide a broad spectrum of palliatives to motivate reporters and spur them on to greater productivity on the job during and post COVID-19.
The report made a case for training and retraining of journalists and media managers on the business side of their operations. “That is how to run profitably without compromising professional ethics and social responsibility.”
On the mental health of journalists, it noted the necessity for the Nigerian society to give close attention to the issue “because a dislocation in this area of well-being in their lives would amount to a dislocation on the entire nation.”