TOWN PLANNING AND THE MEDIA MIND

The media has a major role to play about public perceptions on issues, professions and all other activities. Media has various medium i.e. traditional media, social media and online media. This is an article. 

Overtime, I have observed that the Nigerian media needs to educate and use the media to propagate the ideals of the town planning professional practice. I believe that town planning has gained very bad publicity due to its enforcement arms (Development Control) which some see as infringement on their right to develop at will.

The recent partial demolition of the music house owned by a popular Nigerian juju musician, Mr Yinka Ayefele MON calls for concern. For over one month the media was awash with different opinions and unnecessary sentiments not guided by the planning law but human law and political thought. If I may ask if those who should know doesn’t know who then knows?

The media are expected to enlighten and educate the public taking into consideration the law, moral and global standard of practice without sentiments. But most media in Nigeria usually turned to what I called “THE MEDIA MIND”. I know some of my journalist friends might decide to attack me for this, but my position is based on what I am exposed to.

Media has been defined as collective communication outlets or tools used to store and deliver information or data. It is either associated with communication media or the specialized mass media communication businesses such as print media and the press, photography, advertising, cinema, broadcasting (radio and television), publishing.

For over a decade as a practicing planner, I have observed that what affects the media mind comes in various aspects which includes but not limited to the following;

 

Brown Envelop

This as we know has pasted a heinous impact in virtually every sector of the Nigerian economy. Brown envelop as it’s been called refers to bribery and corruption, kick backs or tips. It is requisite that hungry media personnel put first integrity before filling their stomachs and wallets with bribes. It is high time issues are being discussed in the media for the benefit and fair consumption of the populace rather than for selfish and political interests.

 

Media commercialism does not only hinder journalism practice; it also undermines its integrity.

 

The valid but immoral claim of a typical news organization to break even and make profit on the platform of commercialism has invoked the fortitude of celebrating the sources of advertising incomes. This corporate spirit has found its way into the heart of the some typical Nigerian journalist who seems to have caved into corrupt tendencies. The situation is compounded by the fact that many journalists in this country are poorly paid, thereby resulting in this vice of corruption that is demonstrated in the form of bribery and other types of indirectly solicited gifts.

 

Public interest or the owners’ interest

Claims on the morality of objectivity ought not to be so much problematic if we agree that media ought to work for the good of the society. Such agreement is however difficult to achieve considering the dynamic nature of the society and the various interests of its constituents. For instance, if a journalist aims for objectivity in his reportage, how would he achieve this, while accommodating the interest of the proprietor of his medium, the government of the day and other social interests?

 

Politics and Political Patronage

It is important that the media has a strong hold and influence on politics rather the politics having a strong hold on the mass media.

Government control the media through laws, Uche (1989, p.32) adds that government uses certain preferential treatment to “buy” the most influential journalists in the media to top posts within the government. When Tony Iredia became “notorious”, or is it popular, with his “Point Blank” on NTA network, asking his guest (who were mostly government officials) fiery questions, the federal government quickly responded by first appointing him Director-General of the National Orientation Agency and the Director-General of NTA. That ended its knack for asking too many hard questions.

 

Nwachukwu writes further that in addition, regulatory bodies set up by government can be a source of negative or positive control of the media. Where there are defects or loopholes in the Decree that set up such regulatory bodies, this can be for repressing freedom of expression. It is thought that government may intentionally leave loopholes to exploit in silencing any opposition. It is widely believed that one pitfall in the Decree that set up the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) is the power given to the commission to revoke the license of stations which do not operate in accordance with the code and in the public interest. The Decree did not specify either how to seek redress.

 

Sales and Income

The owners of a media organization has the ultimate power over the content of the newspaper.

The primary focus of a news organization owned by a publicly held corporation is to make profit, and objectivity is seen as a way of attracting the readers desired by advertisers. The content of the news is built into the economic objective of the company. Though in some cases the owner may choose to make profits secondary to an ideological goal such as promoting a particular agenda, the organization can’t definitely ignore the economic goal.

Especially when media firms are owned by stockholders, public service is usually sacrificed for the sake of profitability.

 

Generally, bad news sells and can easily make the headlines; as a matter of fact they are the most captivating. Pick randomly 4 newspapers from different publishers in the same day, and you will verify this assertion. The front pages of each of the news paper will definitely be flooded with top ten bad news of the day. One may begin to wonder, does it mean that most of the things happening in Nigeria are majorly on the bad side or has good things ceased to occur?  

In the most recent incident of the Yinka Ayefele’s media house, nobody sees the issues from the Planning authority point of view, the whole matter is being presented in a manner that will clearly portray the wickedness’ and heartlessness of the government planning authority

Overtime, it has been observed that people naturally hate all enforcement agencies including Planning agencies but I will focus more on planning agencies and its laws. Media houses project planning as evil, for demolition and destruction. When town planners demolish, the first statement is town planners are wicked and for every collapsed building the first question is what are the planners doing? Whereas town planners demolish to prevent disasters that are manmade or natural e.g. flooding, building collapse, access blockage, slum development etc. and when the building collapse people forgets that town planners don’t construct, they only approve.

Everybody loves a good environment but how do we project the maintenance, construction and preservation of good environment. It is through the positive media mind for the planning provision. Rather than calling it demolition, call it correction.

Rather than blaming the law, blame the contractor or developer. Rather than build without approval then don’t build, rather than develop cities and town without development plans please don’t develop at all. Beautiful buildings without infrastructures  beautiful nonsense, what is the value i.e. beautiful house, no water, no road, no power, far from hospital, far from security then it is a ugly building. Because without those things mentioned above the building is just a shelter and housing is more than shelter.

 

The media mind is important for planning to grow in Nigeria and we need the co-operation of media practitioners to achieve a good, healthy, efficient and aesthetically balanced environment.

As pointed out earlier, the media industry is an agglomeration of several stakeholders which include media scholars, professional communicators or journalists, media owners, newsmakers and media users. Each of these stakeholders has its own interests and is passionate about them and will engage any instrumentality to protect them. However it is requisite that the just interests of the various arms of governments especially the law enforcement agencies be put into consideration so as to send the message as it should to the general public without any sentiment or misinterpretation.

The laws and regulation of a country fosters the safety, security and socioeconomic progress of a country and these constitute the goal of town planning or urban and regional planning as a profession, there is need for the media to understand this, and help erase the bad image of town planning which the development control has been labeled with.

 

This Article is written by TPL Olugbenga Ashiru — Current NPRS of the NITP. Visit his website.

The NITP is Nigeria’s leading planning body for spatial, sustainable, integrative and inclusive planning. This is the official website.

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