The Radio, Television and Theatre Arts Workers’ Union has raised its voice against government’s meddling in the running of state-owned print and electronic media. Dr Yemisi Bamgbose the union’s National President spoke out on behalf of the union after a recent national meeting.
The union noted that such interference is part of a broader context of censorship and the promotion of patronage, at the detriment of professionalism and the assumed role of the mass media as a watchdog in society. At both the federal and state levels, governments prefer to appoint praise singers to manage their media outlets and not journalists or broadcasters that would tell the truth the way it is.
This is hardly surprising. For all governments, their radio and television stations are more of propaganda instruments that avenues for disseminating information to the public. If you tune to any state government-owned television station at any time, the face you are most likely to see, repeatedly, is that of the governor. It is also very unlikely that you will get to hear any news about such governors’ failure to pay workers their salaries in the state.
But, while such obvious propaganda use of the mass media by governments, which RATTAWU has rightly condemned is known to everybody, the subtler role of the mainstream media in general is to make working class-people accept the exploitative capitalist system as the “natural” order of society.
Privately-owned mainstream newspapers, radio and television stations are owned by the rich, part of the 1%. They are meant to serve the interests of this 1%, in so many ways. This is despite the commendable commitment of journalists and broadcasters who are genuinely committed to their profession as persons.
For professionalism to flourish and enrich our humanity, the workers in mass media organisations should run these. The rich owners do nothing except commit money as investment, in terms of ensuring that getting the work of journalism or broadcasting going on. But, they call the shots, because the media organisations are seen as their private properties.
The constitution of a “media stakeholders’ forum” as suggested by RATTAWU might to some extent curb the unilateral powers of the media moghuls. But this is not enough. Our aim as socialist activists is to rebuild society on the basis of workers’ democratically running the economic and political processes of our social life. This is possible even now, with the media. A good example is the Greek Radio-Television which was run by workers for two years, when they resisted the attempt of the bosses to shut it down in 2013.
At the moment, it is of utmost importance for us, the 99%, we that are working class-people, to build our own alternative popular media. Trade unions and radical civil society organisations need to establish community radios to propagate news of struggle and views on how the new society we have to build, on the ruins of today’s destructive capitalist order, can be forged.
We need more magazines, newspapers and other periodicals as well as books by working class activists and organisations. This is essential for raising the consciousness of the working class as a whole and for our organisation for self-emancipation. Socialist Worker is being built on the solid foundations of such working class-people’s traditions. It is your paper, without censorship! Read Socialist Worker, buy Socialist Worker, sell Socialist Worker¸ write for Socialist Worker!
– Segun Ogun