The mass media, most especially television has become a part of our daily lives, and sources of information, education and entertainment have been described as the primary functions of the media. Lasswell (1948) as cited in Folarin (2005,p.74), assigns three functions to the media:
v Surveillance of the Environment (the news function).
v Correlation of the different parts of the Environment (the editorial function).
v Transmission of the cultural heritage from one generation to the other (the cultural transmission function). (pg 74).
There is no doub t that the impact of television broadcasting on young people’s lives is broadly considered within what is referred to as “media effects” debate which to a great extent focuses on the potentially negative impact of television on young people’s lives: video violence, gambling, educational performance, television consumerism, etc (Miles 2000,p.87). Steele, J. R. & Brown, J. D. (2005,p.87), identifies three main reasons why television influence should be given a closer look:
v Young people spend more time with the mass media than they do in school or with their parents.
v The media are full of portrayals that glamorize risky adult behavior such as excessive drinking and sexual promiscuity.
v Parents and other socialization agents have arguably shirked their responsibilities when it comes to directing youth away from risky forms of behavior; thereby allowing the media a more fundamental influence.
In the context of this discourse, many commentators opine that by the age of 18, an individual will have spent more time watching television than any other activity besides sleep (Anderson, 2009,p.76). However, Miles (2000, p.73) is of the view that:
It is widely assumed that young people are affected more directly and negatively by the media than any other age group, research actually indicates that young people between the ages of 14 and 24 actually form one of the groups who currently spend the least time watching television. This is a paradox that has often been neglected in the literature. Ironically, the mass media itself has a vested interest in exaggerating the impact it has on young people’s lives because media-hype simply makes good ‘copy.’
Regardless of the actual time young people spend in watching television and using other media, there is no doubt that television broadcasting have played an important role in structuring young people’s lives in some shape and form in a period of rapid social change (Osgerby, 2008,p.12).
The amount of television programes consumed by young people has drastically expanded in recent years, allowing them to compose their own ‘media menu’ with their own preferences and likings. The youth itself is undergoing a period of rapid change, likewise the ways in which young people use the media. The advent of cable and satellite television has boosted television viewing in recent years (Johnson, 2004). Osgerby (2008,p.20), further points out that “the post-modern age brought with it the proliferation of media and information technologies which challenged traditional conceptions of time and space, symbolized most apparently by the global cultural flows and images evident in the programming of Music Television (MTV). MTV is well known as an entertainment television that airs not only music videos, but reality TV shows and other entertainment programmes”.
Reimer (2005,p.67), posits that young people’s use of the mass media binds them together more than any social activity (and hence their relationship with social change). Young people could be said to be united through their pursuit of pleasure through the mass media. The media (or the people behind it) are skilled at knowing what will appeal to the mass teenagers and use skillful manipulation to get messages across, buy into an idea or product that communicates an idea - like the status of having the latest ipod, i-touch or cell phone. However, Allahar (2006,p.54), argue that the manner in which television portray aspects of the outside world might be said to actively prevent young people from developing a critical consciousness that will allow them prioritize larger issues of personal and social responsibility.
Since they are bombarded with tantalizing images of the ‘good life,’ it is not surprising that the young are dispirited by the reality of their poor economic prospects. What lies at the heart of all this activity, however, is the fact that televison can sell young people some element of an identity they have been taught to crave… leisure industries such as music, fashion, and cosmetics have a largely uncritical army of consumers awaiting the next craze or fad. (Allahar, 2006, p.148).
Reality television show has in recent time significantly proved to be a favourite among the youth – particularly those who fall within the range of ages 18-25 (Chikafe 2012,p.76). Among these programmes is the Big Brother Nigeria which is the focus of this study and hereafter referred to as “Big Brother Naija”. Other common ones here in Nigeria include: MTN Project Fame, Gul etc. “Big Brother Naija”, is a reality TV show based on the Big Brother TV series in which 12 contestants live in an isolated house and compete for a large cash prize worth $100000 at the end of the show by avoiding being evicted by viewers. The first season of the show first aired on DStv Channel 37 from March 5 to June 4, 2006. The voting results are verified by the auditing company of Alexander-Forbes. Chikafa, (2012,p.54), writes that the concept was borrowed from George Orwell’s novel of 1984 titled ‘fictional dystopia of Oceania’ in which he described a world of never-ending surveillance. In the novel, the dictator who watched over the citizens of Oceania was called Big Brother, and his terrifying slogan was ‘Big Brother is watching you’. In the Big Brother television show, contestants confined in the house compete to escape eviction in order to win the prize money. The reality TV show debuted on DSTV channel 37 in 2016 and has since then, with the aid of the growth of satellite television in
Africa, roused African audience interest and has remained an annual event till date (Mateveke 2012).