Showing posts with label TV stations. Show all posts
Showing posts with label TV stations. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Why we collect brown envelopes- Nigerian Journalist



Why we collect brown envelopes- Nigerian Journalist

We met one afternoon in the first week of February in a small restaurant on the third floor of the E- Centre in Yaba, a suburb of Lagos. He seemed like a happy go lucky young man as he sat over his plate of jollof rice and chicken whilst I regarded him amusingly. He was sitting beside a popular celebrity blogger and award winning style entrepreneur whom I have known since she was 17 when I was the Editor of an offbeat news magazine in the late 1990s.

“I will not collect anything less than N25, 000, to report and get a story published in our magazine, “he said matter-of-factly in-between mouthfuls of his food.
“I am against journalists collecting brown envelopes,” I said emphatically.
He shrugged at my uncompromising attitude whilst I smirked at his unethical decision.
“We collect brown envelopes, because we are not well paid,” he explained.
“Not all journalists in Nigeria collect brown envelopes,” I said.
He looked up at me and laughed.
“Look, even those who were not collecting brown envelopes before now do so,” he said.
He mentioned that one of the brown envelope rookies was a journalist from the new daily newspaper published by a seasoned Nigerian journalist who became famous after winning the highly coveted Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting in America.
“Their reporters were acting holier than others before, but one of them later succumbed and collected a brown envelope through a proxy,” he revealed giving details how money exchanged hands. He said the reporter was financially constrained and had to collect the money to make ends meet.

To find a Nigerian journalist who has never collected a brown envelope would be like searching for a matchstick in a haystack. Collecting brown envelopes to report news stories is now an informal income to augment their salaries, from the green horns to the seasoned professionals in the newsroom.

Well known members of staff of the most popular private TV and fm radio stations are actively engaged in corrupt practices of asking artistes and other personalities lump sums of money before they interview or feature them on air.

The DJs and VJs in Nigeria extort and exploit Nigerian artistes and others to give them financial inducements to “promote” them. But they do not make returns of their so called “promotional fees” to the management of their employers.

One celebrated DJ at a Pidgin English fm radio station on Victoria Island demanded about N250000 from a Nigerian born hip-hop artiste from the US, but he was queried when his employer found out through a whistle blower in the entertainment industry. He was so scared that he called the artiste and begged for negotiation. His female colleague quickly played the song of the artiste without asking for any brown envelope. But others still collected over N125, 000. One of them boasted that a popular record label paid as much as N2 million for the constant rotation of their hip-hop artistes on radio and TV. And that is the secret of their success and not the noisy songs of their artistes who cannot even get a record deal in the US or the UK where the music recording companies have not collapsed.

These DJs and VJs do not care about the quality of the songs and will hype and play the songs constantly as long as the artistes give them fat brown envelopes. But once you fail to pamper them with cash and gifts they will drop your songs in the drawers until further notice. These corrupt Nigerians simply play whatever you give to them once you have bribed them generously.

In the US and most other places, radio stations do not pay performers for airplay, but they do not extort them in a mutual rapport. Presently, the administration of President Barack Obama is already supporting legislation to make radio stations pay royalties to performers when they play their music just like satellite radio, Internet radio and cable TV music channels pay fees to performers and songwriters.

Cash-for-news coverage is very common all over the world, but permitting the corrupt practice has compromised standards of professional journalism, because a reporter or news channel can be bribed to report even falsehood as I have noted in one of the largest circulating dailies in Nigeria where one of the entertainment editors is fond of cash-for-news coverage to report exaggerated stories or falsehood to promote artistes and their works.

There was a particular case of "cash-for-news coverage" that really shocked me.
Some news reporters asked for brown envelopes to report the 2010 World Malaria Day hosted by the Media Forum of the African Media & Malaria Research Network, AMMREN, in Lagos, Nigeria. An important event for the benefit of the public to save millions of lives was exploited by unscrupulous Nigerian journalists to extort money from the non-profit NGO. The coordinator gave each reporter more than N5,000. But they even failed to give a good report of the event.

"But everybody missed it because it's badly cobbled together. For example, names are badly mixed-up, etc. That's worse than no report, " the coordinator complained to me.

“Cash-for-news coverage is more common in regional and local media than in national media, particularly among district and local media correspondents in small towns. It goes by various street names depending on location, including: red envelope, brown envelope, soli, marmalade, tips, and sitting allowance, among others. Bribery acceptance is linked here to low pay for journalists. It is exemplified as a means of government control of media, undermining democratization. Media control includes the use of false accusation of taking bribes to suppress independent journalists,” said Bill Ristow in Cash for Coverage: Bribery of Journalists Around the World published on September 28, 2010.

You should also read "The Shame of Brown Envelope Journalism" by Peter G. Mwesige
published on Friday, 17 September 2010, by the African Centre for Media Excellence.

The following recommendations have been made to stop the corrupt practices of cash-for-news coverage by the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) - National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

1. "International journalism organizations should:
o Take the initiative to support a summit on the topic of cash for news coverage, to include representatives of the public-relations industry and experts on how corporations deal with bribery.
o Issue regular reports documenting... this 'dark side' of the profession.
o Take the lead in documenting - and publicizing - the pay levels of journalists around the world...

2. Media-development organizations should:
o Sharpen their focus on ethics training...
o Support the creation and nurture of media accountability systems such as ombudsmen and other mechanisms to heighten transparency in how journalists do their work.

3. News media owners, managers, and editors should:
o Adopt, publicize, and then stick to a firm policy of zero tolerance...
o Review pay policies...
o Take the initiative in creating accountability systems on their own, such as appointing an ombudsman...

4. Public relations professionals and their organizations should:
o Not wait for the journalists to suggest a summit. They can suggest it themselves...
o Encourage their members to practice zero tolerance...

5. NGOs [non-governmental organizations] and corporations should:
o Just say no.... adopt a firm rule against paying, put it in writing and make it public, and stick to it in all cases."


~ By Ekenyerengozi Michael Chima