By Martins Oloja
After so many years of contextual reporting of how Nigeria’s fragile economic state has been affecting various sectors of the same economy, senior media managers rose from a unique workshop of their own at the weekend in Lagos where there was some stakeholder consensus that the authorities and business managers in Nigeria hardly realise that journalism practice we always struggle to portray as a constitutional responsibility (in section 22) is also a business that has been adversely affected by the sickly national economy. A way to simplify this preface is that after years of helping other manufacturing sectors, trading partners and even quoted companies and small and medium scale enterprises, agro-business barons and even ransom payers and collectors to lament how the strange economics of even the present administration have affected them, the managers of the Nigerian media business rose from an unusual but fruitful workshop at the weekend in Lagos where they also diagnosed how the crushing Buhari-nomics has affected them and how it should be managed in the world that disruptive social media technologies daily shape.
Here is the news: The Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) South West Lagos wing did some introspection at the weekend in Ikeja, Lagos and empowered its members on the expediency of understanding the business dynamics of journalism at this perilous time that the tech giants have used the power of the ‘link economy’ to deprive us of all benefits of our classic ‘content economy.’
Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on Thursday declared open the two-day workshop on ‘Good corporate governance in the media. The workshop, specifically for managing directors, publishers and editors of national media outlets, including print, broadcast and online was held at the De Rembrandt Hotel, Alausa, Ikeja. The theme: “Journalism and Digitalisation: The Imperative of Good Corporate Governance”. According to the NGE President, Mustapha Isah, and the General-Secretary, Iyobosa Uwugiaren, the workshop is to explore the impact of digitalisation on journalism and the media industry, and prescribe practicable responses to its disruptions.
“Digitalisation has changed the face and the practice of journalism, eroding its space,” the NGE said, adding, “For the profession to thrive, it needs more efficient management models.” A lecturer at the School of Media and Communication, Pan Atlantic University Lagos, Dr. Pius Onobhayedo delivered the keynote address on the theme, while the former Managing Director of ‘The Guardian,’ Mr. Emeka Izeze, spoke on the sub-theme: “Striking the Balance among Commercialism, Proprietary Right and Professionalism.” Former Managing Director, of The Sun, Dr. Tony Onyima, and the former Deputy Editor-in-Chief of The Punch and former Provost, Nigerian Institute of Journalism, (NIJ) Mr. Gbemiga Ogunleye, now a lawyer delivered papers on “Surviving the Digital Onslaught,” and “Journalism and the Law: Who Watches the Watchdog?” Another significant subtheme, “Impact of inequality at subnational levels on national security and social crises”, exposed participants to the power of data and development journalism. This was anchored by Rotimi Sankore, the CEO of Africa Centre for Development Journalism.” This unique presentation shared with editors and media chiefs data-based findings, shows that inequality at the states and local councils have impact on national issues including insecurity, health and education crises. The workshop, which attracted 50 participants across Lagos, Ekiti, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Edo and Delta States, had other discussants and moderators from the board and newsrooms of the Nigerian media.
MATTERS Arising…More than anything else, the workshop threw up a number of matters arising from discussion points by panels and participants. All the papers were not the usual public sector papers that have always been full of sound and fury, signifying nothing in the end. The papers reconstructed what we used to do well in the profession, how we were doing them well before civilisation kicked us in the face with the advent of high-tech disrupters and what some now simply call citizen journalism, which has given birth to millions of editors who have reduced journalism to a mere conversation. The conversations also addressed corporate governance challenged then and now and how managers migrating from newsrooms to boardrooms can migrate well at this time. Yes, managers and participants were reminded of P.W Botha’s maxim to South Africans at a time of transition too: ‘You either adapt of die.” There are more of the benefits of the re-tooling workshop you can’t access here but the most significant reason for this article is a take-away I would like to share with those who would like to be part of some Movement to change Nigeria, our Nigeria through the power of intellectual property.
Pius Onobhayedo, Ph.D is of the School of Media and Communication and School of Science and Technology, Pan-Atlantic University. There is a sense in which we can claim that he isn’t a prominent figure when it comes to teaching of journalism in Nigeria. But his intervention at the weekend workshop on digital journalism has made him to be a significant figure. The dominant element in all our discussions is ‘surviving the digital onslaught’. The scholar is an expert in computer science elements, which is critical to digital journalism. As they put in it Columbia School of Journalism, one of the best Journalism Schools even in global context, Journalism plus (+) Computer Science is equal to ‘Digital Journalism.’ The scholar who did his doctoral degree in Spain is so significant to them in Pan Atlantic University to the extent that he belongs to two faculties: Media and Communication, Science and Technology. Our encounter with him at the weekend shows that the media industry and Media and Communication Schools being formed as a result of unbundling of Mass Communication Course in Nigeria and on-going migration and growth into Schools of Media and Communication need hundreds of Onobhayedos in Nigeria so that we can benefit from the new deal – digital journalism.
Dr. Onobhayedo says to us: Common sense will immediately tell us that the Big Tech companies of today could not have gotten to their position without continuous innovation. Steve Jobs’ second entry into Apple speaks volumes. It seems however safe to maintain Jack Welch’s admonition that shareholder returns should be seen as an outcome of ‘good’ governance without comprising the need for a governance strategy that better guarantees sustainability. Herein lies the advocacy for a shift in mentality from classical ‘Corporate Governance’ to ‘Platform Governance’ as proposed by Fenwick et al. (2019). This mentality in my opinion, is quite fitting for today’s Media organizations who increasing face competition not only from among themselves but also from among other ‘platform companies’ that are relentless in eating into the value-chain of media organizations. There is a very thin line in the digital world between service organizations that have digital information flow as the currency between content producers and content consumers.
In their article daringly titled The End of ‘Corporate’ Governance: Hello ‘Platform’ Governance, Fenwick et al. (2019) posits that platform companies that stick to corporate governance measures intended to protect the interests and control of those at the ‘top’ of the hierarchy (i.e., shareholders), and for whom other considerations are secondary, risk becoming in the medium to long term, firms that struggle to innovate, ending up as corporate ‘dinosaurs’ – i.e., lumbering giants facing extinction. They opine that the future of digital age will be platform-driven ecosystems in which multiple players operate either ‘as’ a platform or ‘integrated’ within a platform. The most influential companies though will be the ones that position themselves as platform owners (which typically control the platform). Therefore, all businesses – not just tech-businesses should now be looking to reinvent themselves as platforms. Furthermore, by “operating as platforms, many companies hope to build their capacity for disruptive innovation and ensure that they remain relevant. Established and ‘traditional’ companies must also undergo this transformation. The rule is straightforward: ‘You either become a platform, or you will be killed by one’.” They also assert that “anticipating, planning for and integrating the next ‘big thing’, whatever it may be, is crucial to maximizing a firm’s chance of long-term success—or even its very survival”. Media companies must be particularly mindful of this…
From the foregoing, we can conclude along with Fenwick et all that governance strategy should be concerned with how firms can organise now for success tomorrow; what they should do now to innovate and remain successful in the future; what kind of structures, practices, and processes will best equip the firm to continually reinvent itself, its products and its services; and how they can leverage new digital technologies to maximize their performance and capacity for innovation. These concerns can hardly be strategically addressed without requisite knowledge or competency at the board level where corporate strategy is established. In addition, the regulatory agency also needs to be aware of these concerns and the need to give directors adequate breathing space to operate with requisite innovative agility…
A CALL for self-examination of response to digital evolution. At this point, having hinted at the need for requisite knowledge and competence for good corporate governance in the digital era, Dr. Onobhayedo concludes that ‘this is a good time to reflect on how our respective Media organisations have responded to technology trends so far and how prepared we are for the emerging future.’
There are so many schools of computer science and technology in Nigeria. There are so many traditional journalists in Nigeria. There are so many professors of traditional journalism in Nigeria? But how many of the tertiary institutions offering journalism or mass communication and even computer science can boast of the digital journalism scholars who can partner in transforming us professional dinosaurs into digital journalists? How many of such institutions can produce digital journalists that can be useful instantly? Did Google find a well equipped Computer Science and Technology School that could manage its Artificial Intelligence Unite in West Africa the other day before the Centre was domiciled in Ghana? How many of our universities are well equipped to produce modern medical scientists, pharmacists, nurses, engineers, architects, lawyers, agriculturists, that can take Nigeria to the next level of industrial revolution needed to make the country the authentic leader of the black race. The answers to these questions should prick the conscience of our political leaders who have failed to fund this weapon of country and global competitiveness called education. Have we not quoted here that the only atomic bomb you need to destroy any nation is to destroy its education?