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MASS MEDIA AND GENDER DISCRIMINATION

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CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

  1.1   BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY

This research examines mass media and gender discrimination in Nigeria with special focus on female gender discrimination.  Gender issue or what is otherwise called feminism and womanism has been a topical issue in the contemporary period, as series of books and articles have been written on the topic; many conferences have been held to discuss this matter with far reaching recommendations, and many international conventions have been made across the globe to redress the perceived imbalance between the male and female in the both advanced and developing countries.

In 1995, the issue of women and media was an area of concern in the Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA), thus reflecting a growing recognition that media and communication are key for women's equality. The discussion identified two key areas where action was needed. One, to increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making in and through the media and new technologies of communication. Two, to promote a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media. 

Enemaku (2005) in a write-up on gender dichotomy noted that a look at the composition of participants in the 2005 National Political Reforms Conference (NPRC) in Abuja indicates that while men constitute a staggering 93%, women are only about 7% of the total 394 members. Similarly the average age of participants is put at about 64.5 years (The Punch, Thursday, February 17, 2005, p.1). This implication of the above marginalization of women is that issues bothering on women and children will take a back seat.  Wicked and harmful practices affecting women and children will not be discussed.

Women are described in terms of appearance rather than abilities. There are fabricated stigmatization such as “the weaker sex”, “the office of the woman is in the kitchen” to mention but a few.  Moreover, the increased commercialisation of every medium has intensified the visibility of negative images on female, from billboards to television to newspaper. New media are perpetuating and accentuating much that is negative about the portrayal of women in computer games pornography, advertisement, fashion and music videos. This has happened despite growing numbers of women in business, of women parliamentarians and journalists.

Furthermore, women are often represented as being part of a context (family, friends, colleagues) and working or thinking as part of a team not independent. In drama, they tend to take the role of helper or object, passive rather than active. Often their passivity extends to victimhood. Men are still represented as TV drama characters up to 3 times more frequently than women, and tend to be the predominant focus of news stories.  The representations of women that do make it onto page and screen do tend to be stereotypical, in terms of conforming to societal expectations, and characters who do not fit into the mould tend to be seen as dangerous and deviant.

There are some notable improvement and exceptions to a generally negative situation and participation of women, often as a result of affirmative action, advocacy and enforcement of international conventions on gender discrimination. Women’s organizations and media monitoring groups have had an active role to play in promoting change. A wide variety of women's media initiatives are making a positive impact both in Nigeria and abroad. There have been a few worthy governmental initiatives and training of journalists and other media makers has also help to increase female presence in media organisations. 

To redress the imbalance and discrimination against women in the media, Werden (2000) suggested that Micro radio transmitters small enough to fit into women’s purse could be used to establish media outfits to meet the needs of women to communicate their issues, and that enough money can be raised by women organizations and NGOs to start and run licensed stations in the US.  This suggestion and be replicated in Nigeria.  In the economic and commercial areas this was achieved with the setting up of women participatory programmes like Better Life from Rural Women, Family Support Programme (FSP) et cetera.  In the political arena, women are also making very great impact.

1.1   STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM

The media profession is heavily dominated by the male right from independence. To date there has not been very significant improvement in the number of women and their negative portrayal in the media industry, be it print, electronic media, broadcasting, or advertising. Negative, stereotyped, inaccurate and violent images of women potential and competence are pervasive. Women are described in terms of appearance rather than abilities, they are screened out during interview when discovered to be married because the media organization would suffer during her maternity leave and pregnancy.

Most women working in the media are in low paying positions with little responsibility, and remote access to managerial position. Studies show senior women drop out when the double load of home and work are too much to juggle. Many of the women are dissatisfied and feel unchallenged in the workplace, which is a male defined and dominated space. The Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA, 1999) underlines the importance of women's media and networks for promoting debate and disseminating information. Also as a means of recognizing the specific needs of women in media, and facilitating their increased participation in communication. Women's advocacy to redress the problem of discrimination against their interest is criticized and described by some people as "preaching to the converted". That is , men have made up their minds to dominate the industry and that there is very little women can do to change the status quo.

1.2   OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY The general objective of this research is to examine the Nigerian mass media and degree of discrimination against female.  However, the specific objectives are: 1.To examine the contribution of the female media practitioners in the media industry.

2.     To assess the level of competence of female relative to male in the media industry. 3.     To highlight the factors responsible for discrimination against female in the media industry. 4.     To contribute to knowledge on gender issue through recommendations

               1.3  SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDY

Research on gender (female) discrimination in the mass media is topical and timely.  It will be significant in many respect as it will aid international organizations, countries, women advocacy group, activists, civil society and policy maker on female matters in many respect:

1.   Identifying the level of investment needed to train the female media practitioners to be at the same level with their male counterparts.

2.     Passing an anti-discrimination bill enforcing the employment of female in media industry.

3.     Educating the society on the colossal loss being suffered by the country as a result of discrimination against female in media industry.

3      Creating an awareness regarding the needs and challenges facing women in the media industry and advancing solutions.

1.3.1                           1.4  RESEARCH QUESTIONS                           

A total of 30 research questions would be raised in the questionnaire designed for collection of information from respondents in the few media houses selected for this research. These important questions are as highlighted:

1. What strategies have female media staff developed as a means of strengthening women's participation in the media?

2. How are female using the media to enhance their status in the profession?

3. Are females in the media taking advantage of International conventions/resolutions to increase their media presence, marketability and visibility?

4. Can women perform effectively at higher management level in the media organization ?

5.     Do women face new obstacles in reaching decision-making positions?

6.     Have the few women in management positions in media establishment been able to effect a change in the portrayal of women in media?

7.     Why are the few women in management position not been able to effect negative portrayal of women in the media?

8.     If not, why, and what could be done to make this happen?

9.     What mechanisms would women want to see put in place to curb discrimination against female in the media?

10.    And what proposals are women putting forward to shape the media of the future and make them more gender-sensitive?

11.    What steps have governments and multilateral agencies taken to encourage such activities?

1.3.2                 1.5  RESEARCH HYPOTHESES

Hypothesis is a statement of fact subject to empirical verification.  For the purpose of this project, three key hypotheses have been identified. They are as follows:

Ho:    There is no effective representation of females in the media industry.

H1:    There is effective representation of females in the media industry.

Ho:    Female media practitioners are not as qualified and productive as their male colleagues.

H1:    Female media practitioners are as qualified and productive as their male colleagues.

Ho:    Females are not significantly represented at the management level in media organizations.    

H1:    Females are significantly represented at the management level in media organizations.    

1.6   SCOPE AND LIMITATION

Gender issue both in Nigeria and the world over is a sensitive and topical issue, which cannot be researched into without considering the opinions of the cross-section of people who are directly at the receiving end.  The scope of this study would therefore be on 50 respondents from the five media houses selected in Lagos axis, namely: 

(i)                  NTA 10

(ii)                 The Punch Newspaper

(iii)                         The Guardian Newspaper

(iv)                         Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria

(v)       


This material content is developed to serve as a GUIDE for students to conduct academic research



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