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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Balancing communication act by Skybank

The recent partnership between Skybank Plc and British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is an effort at balancing communication act between developed and developing nations, reports REMMY NWEKE.

Over the years, disparity in global communication has been of concern to well meaning individuals and organizations in most developing nations of the world, especially in Africa and precisely Nigeria.

From the focus on the theory that ‘Bad news’ is ‘good news’ for media organizations such as the multi-national broadcasting entity like the United Kingdom (UK) based British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Reuters, Associated Free Press (AFP) to name a few, have faced criticisms in the past over this attitude.

DM MacKay in submission of document to the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) on ‘Communication and meaning: A Functional Approach’ described communication as having the advantage of application equally based on what ‘flows’ along the artificial communication lines and what ‘passes’ between human beings.

Communication, therefore, according to UNESCO experts, is the transmission of data or information from one actor to another. “One could attempt to communicate by sending a message or a piece of information, or by sharing a thought with someone. Such an act satisfies the definition of ‘communication’, provided there is reasonable assurance that the message has been received, just as every communication have a purpose and the degree to which this purpose has been satisfied determines the success or failure of the communication.

Fundamentally, the issue of imbalances in global communication has been described as a major issue militating against economic growth in Least Developing Countries (LDCs), most of which are located on African continent and Nigeria’s removal from being part of the LDCs remain in contention; for merely exceeding 75 million population, the exclusion by United Nations (UN) agency categorization, has not reflected in the lives of the citizenry in Nigeria. Currently, 33 countries in Africa out of the 52 have been listed as incumbents LDCs.

The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), which played a leading role in organizing the three United Nations Conferences on the Least Developed Countries, (Paris, 1981 and 1990; Brussels, 2001), in circular (E/2004/33) outlined the criteria for LDCs consisting “a low-income criterion, based on a three-year average estimate of the gross national income (GNI) per capita (under $750 for inclusion, above $900 for graduation); a human resource weakness criterion, involving a composite Human Assets Index (HAI) based on indicators of: nutrition, health, education and adult literacy.”

Additionally, the criteria was defined as “an economic vulnerability criterion, involving a composite Economic Vulnerability Index (EVI) based on indicators of the instability of agricultural production, exports of goods and services, economic importance of non-traditional activities; share of manufacturing and modern services in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), merchandise export concentration and the handicap of economic smallness as measured through the population in logarithm; and the percentage of population displaced by natural disasters.

As such, the communication disparity took centre stage recently at a function where communication scholars and researchers noted that the flow of news among nations has remained ‘thin,’ while arguing that much attention is given to developed countries in positive developments, whereas little is given to less-developed nations, especially on the assumption that ‘bad news sells the paper,’ therefore media giants thrive on showcasing bad news in developing countries than the positive outlooks.

Hence, Communication scholars opined that important events within the continent of Africa, for instance, are ignored and reality distorted because foreign global media like BBC and Reuters are looking for saleable ‘stories.'

ITRealms Online recalls that in the 1970s, inequality in global communication gave rise to collaboration by the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and debated within the United Nations as well as UNESCO.

Another instance is that a wide range of these issues were deliberated upon as part of the New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO) debates, consisting long-standing issues of media coverage of the developing world and imbalance flow of media influence, new technologies with important military and commercial usage, thus, developing countries were likely to be marginalized at this computer age.

Notable among issues of concern against old information order included news reporting on the LDCs that reflected the priorities of news agencies in London, Paris and New York; reporting of natural disasters and military coups rather than the fundamental realities. At a time four major news agencies controlled over 80 per cent of global news flow.

Others include an imbalance flow of mass media from the developed world, especially in the United States to the underdeveloped countries. Similarly, advertising agencies in the developed world have indirect but significant effects on mass media in the developing countries. Some observers also judged the messages of these ads to be inappropriate for the Third World countries.

Yet, the features of the old information order comprised an unfair division of the radio spectrum. A small number of developed countries controlled almost 90 per cent of the radio spectrum. Much of this was for military use.

Also, there were similar concerns about the allocation of the geostationary orbit parking spots in space for satellites. At the same time only a small number of developed countries had satellites and it was not possible for developing countries to be allocated a space that they might need ten years later, which means eventually getting a space that was more difficult and more expensive to operate.

Satellite broadcasting of television signals into Third World countries, for instance, without prior permission was widely perceived as a threat to national sovereignty. Although the UN voted in the early 1970s against such broadcasts, a major step forward is yet to be witnessed.

Another issue analysts pointed out is the use of satellites to collect information on crops and natural resources in the Third World at a time when most developing countries lacked the capacity to analyse this data.

Obviously, the aforementioned and many more must have given rise to the desire of one of the nation’s financial institutions, Skye Bank Plc, reputed for its commitment to development of Africa to recently consummate partnership with British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in its bid to project Africa to the rest of the globe.

This commitment which comes in terms of sponsorship of ‘Africa Business Report’ by the bank, is another plus for Pan African initiative, especially with an estimated global listenership of over 150 million, the partnership is to project the continent to millions of people through the BBC network.

The programme to be aired every Saturday and Sunday at 1.30pm and 8.00 pm respectively on BBC, is proposed to showcase the economic potentials and developments on the African continent as part of effort at correcting the negative reporting of Africa in the international news media.

The partnership talk which commenced last August would see BBC correspondents within each country reporting on the growing trends and latest business developments in the region to the worldwide audience thereby positively projecting Africa to the rest of the world.

Speaking at the launch of the programme recently in Lagos, the Group Managing Director, Sky Bank Plc, Mr. Akinsola Akinfemiwa, explained that Africa had often been negatively reported by the powerful foreign media, giving scant regard to the positive developments on the continent.

“The idea behind the sponsorship of this programme is not primarily for publicity and visibility; rather, our intention is to add value and positively impact on the economic development of the African continent and the social wellbeing of its populace,” he said, stressing that as a proudly Nigerian bank with a Pan African ambition, Sky Bank sees the need to tell the world about the various good initiatives and business opportunities that abound on the continent, thereby connecting Africa to the world and the world to Africa.

In his comment, BBC’s Executive Director, Sean O’Hara, said the programme would be viewed by over 150 million people across the world, emphasizing that it would tell the other side of Africa by showcasing entrepreneurial spirit in Africans.

The presenter of the programme, Komlar Dumor, said it is a privilege for him to present African Business Report during a time the continent is developing its economic growth and business future. Pointing out that Africa has a new generation of energetic entrepreneurs who are determined to compete on the global stage. He declared, “Africa Business Report is designed to capture the energy and diversity of business life in Africa.”

Industry observers have the opinion that the programme could escalate into nourishing the entrepreneurial spirit among Africans as well as setting in motion a healthy competition for innovation, job creation and the ultimate economic transformation of the continent, even as foreign investors are likely to understand the change and key into the new process that is unfolding in Africa by bringing in their capital and expertise, thereby furthering economic productivity and the national income accruable to the respective countries in the continent.

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