Audience Perception of Advocacy on Akbc Television Against Rape
The main objective of this study was to establish how AKBC Television campaign against rape and sexual assault stories.
- To find out how AKBC Television reports on rape portray the aggressors.
- To find out whether journalists’ opinions influence how media portray justice and fairness in rape stories.
- To find out whether need for media profit influences reporting of rape.
- To find out whether news values influence how AKBC Television reports on rape.
Theories guide a researcher in studies and can shape research focus (Reeves, Albert, Kuper and Hodges, 2008; Alasuutari, 1996). It is therefore important for any academic study to be guided by theory. Furthermore, a good study needs to be backed by solid literature review in subject areas related to the research. This will help the researcher to understand work that has been carried out in the same area of study and even guide in methodology and analyses, and perhaps in comparison of results later on (Reeves et al, 2008).
According to Trochim (2006), a theoretical framework guides research by determining the types of variables and statistical relationships in the study. Mugenda and Mugenda (2003, p.15) posit, “A theory is a set of concepts or constructs and the interrelations that are assumed to exist among those concepts”. They argue that it provides the basis for the variables to be tested in a study. Theories therefore enable a researcher to clearly identify the variables of the study, provide a general framework for data analysis and help in the selection of applicable research designs. Alasuutari (1996, p.372) says a theory is a concept that tries to explain the social functioning or phenomena. He says theories “provide viewpoints to social reality”.
Framing involves how a message is packaged and communicated; and especially what is stressed in the message to elicit a certain interpretation or reaction. Scheufele and Tewksbury (2007, p.11) say framing “is based on the assumption that how an issue is characterised in news reports can have an influence on how it is understood by audiences”. This further explains that the way something is reported can make a person interpret it differently.
Scheufele (1999) notes that previous studies lack clear definitions of framing and instead rely on context-specific operationalisations rather than general ones. He says that because of these vague definitions, “framing has been used repeatedly to label similar but distinctly different approaches” (Scheufele, 1999, p.103). Scheufele quotes McCombs, Shaw and Weaver (1997) who suggested that framing is an extension of agenda setting, such that salient characteristics of media coverage may influence an audiences’ interpretation of the news stories.
Scheufele (2007) says that framing traces back to agenda setting and priming; and involves media effects, which depend on audience characteristics. He says audience characteristics can influence how the audience processes messages from mass media. Scheufele (1999) says, however, that though framing can influence an audience’s perception, framing effects may be limited.
According to Entman (1991), frames exist in the specific properties of news narratives that encourage people to understand the message in a certain way. This is such that the audience perception is moulded according to how the message is packaged. Framing involves selecting “some aspects of a perceived reality and making them more salient in a communicating text, in such a way as to promote a particular problem definition, causal interpretation, moral evaluation, and/or treatment recommendation for the item prescribed” (Entman, 1993, p.52). In this way, framing means packaging a message in such a way as to communicate a certain aspect the person wants to be understood. A conversation or message may have different meaning depending on the tone and way it is spoken or written such that the way communication is packaged influences the message that will be delivered and how it will be understood. Framing involves constructing a picture of reality by creating frames and making them socially relevant such that people identify with it. Entman argues that communicators make “conscious or unconscious framing judgements” (Entman, 1993, p.52). He goes further to illustrate how frames work by using Kahneman and Tversky (1984) example of framing, which Entman says is one of the most widely cited examples of the power of framing.
Imagine that the U.S. is preparing for the outbreak of an unusual Asian disease, which is expected to kill 600 people. Two alternative programs to combat the disease have been proposed. Assume that the exact scientific estimates of the consequences of the programs are as follows: If Program A is adopted, 200 people will be saved. If Program B is adopted, there is a one-third probability that 600 people will be saved and a two-thirds probability that no people will be saved. Which of the two programs would you favour?
In this experiment, 72 per cent of the subjects chose Program A; 28 per cent chose Program B (Entman, 1993, p.53).
The message that 200 people will be saved was positively communicated, making more people inclined to select it than risk taking programme B where there is a possibility that all will be saved but also a higher probability that all will die. People seemed to prefer the option of saving without risking the death of others. In this experiment, the message was framed in terms of saving lives.
In the next experiment, identical options to treating the same described situation were offered, but framed in terms of likely deaths rather than likely lives saved: “If Program C is adopted, 400 people will die. If Program D is adopted, there is a one-third probability that nobody will die and a two-thirds probability that 600 people will die. The percentages choosing the options were reversed by the framing. Program C was chosen by 22 per cent, though its twin Program A was selected by 72 per cent; and Program D garnered 78 per cent, while the identical Program B received only 28 per cent. (Entman, 1993, p.53).
In the second part of the experiment, the message communicated indicates that if programme C is used, 400 people will definitely die and if programme D is used, there is a probability than none of the people will not die but also another probability that the 600 will die. More respondents chose programme D because it offered a chance of saving all against programme C that indicated 400 will definitely die.
This experiment shows how messages are communicated and understood and what feedback is given depending on how the messages are framed. It means that in framing a message, the sender can decide to stress on something he considers important to send his message home and the receiver will likely interpret the message based on what aspect of it is emphasised.
Scheufele (1999) proposes that journalists are adaptable to the frames they use when reporting. This means that sometimes journalists frame news in a certain way, their colleagues may pick up the same and frame their stories in the same way, therefore setting a news frame. Shoemaker and Reese (1996) say that framing is a mode of presentation that journalists use to convey information to the audience. It involves packaging the message depending on the context and perhaps, the audience.
Entman (1993) describes framing as a process of selecting some aspects of a perceived reality and making them more important in communicating text. He says the process of framing involves arranging information in such a way that it influences the audience. Entman says frames can be identified by the presence or absence of certain words, phrases or other elements in an article. Frames organise discourse, including news stories,
“by their patterns, selection, emphasis and exclusion” (Ryan, Carragee & Meinhofer, 2001, p.176). However, Watkins (2001) argues that as much as frames present an idea of what and how the author wants the audience to interpret the message, they may not necessarily determine what the people will think.
Framing may also involve what information a subject wants understood or what effect he wants the message to have on a certain class of people. It is how a subject or topic is packaged and presented to an audience to influence a decision or interpretation. Therefore, just like in normal communication, the author of the message will pass it in a way that most influences the results he wants.
This chapter covers how the researcher carried out the study.
The study is qualitative. For this study, the researcher collected texts and interviewed respondents on their perception of sexual violence reports in the Justice for Esther case to have a clear understanding of how AKBC Television reports on gender violence and describe how Rape is framed.
Population of study
The unit of analysis of this study is AKBC Television stories published in December 2021. The channel was chosen because of its reach, it is a major TV station and its sold all over Nigeria.
DATA PRESENTATION AND ANALYSIS
This chapter seeks to discuss the findings of the study and make interpretations. The researcher used purposive sampling to select data – NTA reports on Justice For Esther and respondents with know-how on Justice For Esther and sexual violence stories – and textual analysis to analyse the data.
DISCUSSION, CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
This chapter discusses the conclusion on the findings in chapter four and the relationship of sub-themes in the study to other studies or publications. It gives a comprehensive discussion and suggests recommendations and areas of further studies.
During analysis, the researcher came across major themes in the study that cut across many of the texts used. The themes are discussed below:
Media and activism
In this study, media are seen as activists. In this case, the media is advocating for the rights of the teenage girl, Esther. The media advocates that Esther get justice through the arrest of her rapists and their punishment; penalty to the police to whom she reported the case to; and protection of all girls and women in Nigeria. The media is advocating for basic human rights to be respected and women to be respected and viewed as having more than just a body to misuse. Fuchs (2010, p.179) says that critical media includes “the voice of the excluded, oppressed, dominated, enslaved, estranged and exploited”. In this way, media plays the role of an activist by being critical of dominance and espousing, directly or indirectly, a better way of dealing with gender and violence in society by advocating for all people’s rights; just as Fuchs (2010) says that critical media aims at expressing oppositional standpoints and questions all forms of domination.
Although this study found that print media in this case acted as activists for human rights and justice, most studies accessed by the researcher show that activism in media is normally portrayed via new media (internet-based) as opposed to traditional forms of media (print and broadcast). The researcher came across various articles, including Sutzl and Hug (2012) and Lewis, Gray and Meierhenrich (2014), which suggest that new media has encouraged more activism, in politics and social spheres, and changed the way people communicate, lobby and get support. Lewis, Gray and Meierhenrich (2014) say that social media has transformed relationships and communication giving rise to activism and an activist community online. This is through using the internet as a means of recruitment and fundraising, hence leading to online activism. They say that online activism is effective and makes it easier to lobby.
Through social sites such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other sites, people have been able to lobby and communicate an agenda. In the Justice for Esther case, www.thepetitionsite.com and www.avaaz.com were used to effectively lobby for signatures worldwide to call for justice for Esther. However, mainstream traditional media, especially print media, still play a role in calling for support for justice for rape victims.
Activists inform, educate and fight for certain rights to enable the affected people enjoy their rights. Media are activists because they also inform, educate and set agenda to ensure people affected benefit. As much as media are activists, part of it is about publicity and sales. The more recognised, talked about or accepted media houses are, the more sales they get on adverts because of popularity. So reporters and editors may be activists but they also choose what to be active about – as seen in presentation and interpretation of the objective on how profit determines reporting on rape. Furthermore, the way the audience relates to a story can influence how media also reacts to it. Stories on rape attract a lot of audience attention and the audience reacts by calling for action and writing letters to the editor to show disapproval for RSA. Because of this, the media also knows its audience and knows what makes the audience tick, therefore, they publicise rape stories to satisfy the audience. The more audience a newspaper has, the higher its advertising revenue and the higher it can charge for advertising. An editor interviewed for this study said: “…the uproar the first story caused made other media houses give Justice for Esther stories prominence.” She also said: “A story gets more prominence due to its uptake by readers and the uproar after Esther’s plight was first published justified putting news on the case in the most read sections of the paper.”
Media and conflict
This study found out that media uses conflict as the main selling point for RSA stories, to attract readers and sell more copy. Conflict here is seen in the disagreement in opinion between the victim and suspects, the victims and suspects’ families, the victim and police, and society and law enforcement.
Conflict is a situation in which two or more parties have different views over a matter and do not agree on how it should be done or taken up. According to Howard (2008), conflict is a situation where two or more individuals or groups try to pursue goals or ambitions, which they cannot share, or do not share. While, Wright (1951) says conflict arises from competition driven by self-interest. Conflict can be violent or non-violent depending on the situation and the environment in which it occurs. It can be expressed verbally or nonverbally. Non-violent conflict may be in form of disagreements and violation of rights, as well as feuds. Violent conflict involves the use of force, weapons and any destructive objects to cause harm, injury or destruction (Wright, 1951; Pkalya & Adan, 2006; Pkalya, Adan & Masinde, 2003; Pkalya, Adan & Masinde, 2004).
In the case of sexual violence, the conflict is in the interest of the parties involved. The victim does not want sexual contact while the perpetrator wants it. In this sense, there is a conflict of interest between the two parties. Consequently, there is also a conflict of interest between the society and perpetrator and the law and perpetrator, and sometimes even between society and the victim. Part of society may be against sexual assault and therefore have conflicting interest with perpetrators like in the case where the media and activists fought for Esther’s rights to justice; part of society may be in agreement with perpetrators and therefore have conflicting interests with the victim like in the case where Esther’s family was threatened by the families of the perpetrators to drop the case and where police treated the rape like a minor offence; and the law in Nigeria, particularly the Sexual Offences Act (Nigeria, 2006), conflicts with the perpetrators interests.
Conflict sells is one of the most widely taught maxims in journalism and is practised everywhere. Conflict attracts readers and is a good selling point for any story. According to Botes (1996) in Akpoghiran and Otite (2013), media is naturally attracted to conflict. This means that media senses conflict and reports on it because it makes news. Furthermore, Akpoghiran and Otite (2013) quote Owens-Ibie (2002) as saying that conflict is the bread and butter of journalism. Akpoghiran and Otite (2013, p.13) say that to Owens-Ibie, “conflict sells in journalism”.
These writers’ works correspond to findings of this study that media make use of conflict in reporting to create interesting stories because conflict sells. It means that what makes society tick or read the story is what they see as a conflict that will in effect be solved or there will be suggested solutions to the conflict at hand. In rape stories there are usually several suggested solutions to the conflict, including the probe and arrest of the perpetrators, action against the police who do not take the perceived appropriate actions and investigate the cases properly, and calls to the director of public prosecutions (DPP) to order investigations.
RSA stories create conflict in people’s minds and also in the public responses to the stories. People will keep questioning and look for a solution, which they may even find within the media itself. In public responses, various people have various views and this type of conflict make more people participate in the media product of rape to share their diverse views. These diverse views bring in conflict and help the newspaper to sell because people keep sharing their views. With all this happening, the media is setting an agenda through conflict. Sometimes, as presented in chapter four, journalists report stories based on their beliefs and bias, which can create conflict. They do this because the idea sells, they believe in it or they want the audience to believe in it. And it is interesting to engage the audience to try resolve the conflict, for example, in rape stories, the writers seem to ask the audience to join in the fight against sexual violence, while some ask for law enforcers to take action and ensure perpetrators are punished for their crime.
Some call for more education and awareness to RSA to stop sexual violence in society. In this way, the media is calling for a resolution of the conflict even as it uses the conflict to sell.
Words, photos and graphics bear linguistic and intertextual features that are used to communicate and represent a message in a certain way. These features are also used by researchers to interpret meaning, paying attention to socio-cultural cues, beliefs and practices, which will give the intended meaning in context.
In rape stories in Nigeria, strong descriptors were used to elicit emotion and give views of how the writers and TV station viewed the whole cases – the rape, punishment, treatment of victims and seeking justice – compared to societal acceptable roles and practices; and communicated a meaning for the audience to interpret.
From the analysis of the stories and interviews, it is clear most people are offended by the treatment of rape victims. The outrage in rape stories was evident in views showing the audience saw treatment of victims as unjust.
This study elicits further questions of research, which should be done due to the limitations of this study. This study also posed a moral question to the media on framing, agenda setting and informing the masses.
As a result of findings of the study, the researcher came up with the following recommendations that could play an important role as far as dealing with rape and rape and sexual assault is concerned.
- The media in Nigeria should have more thoroughly researched feature stories on rape and sexual violence to communicate to society and set the agenda of a sexual violence-free Nigeria. The agenda setting role of the media is important because people many times conform to the media agenda and use it in their lives.
- The media should review how it reports on and campaigns against rape and have more balanced stories to expose the audience to all characters involved in the assault or the action taken after the assault, so audiences can make an informed choice when they interpret the media message. Balanced stories ensure the suspects are also given a voice and even interviewed, without necessarily giving their identity, so that all sides of the stories are told.
- Groups that lobby for human rights should make us of media to inform society on rape and sexual assault. The NGOs can also guide media on how to report on rape and RSA cases to protect victims while creating awareness on rape.
- The Ministry of Devolution and Planning, the Ministry of Gender, Children and
Social Services and the Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology should use the media to communicate rape and sexual assault stories and change society’s views on rape and communicate policies on rights of citizens. The ministries can use media-based information, education and communication materials to educate people on rape. The government ministries can also guide media on how to report on rape and sexual assault and policies associated with RSA.
Suggestions for further studies
Due to time constraints, the researcher could not study everything in the field of media, framing and sexual violence and was restricted to only study sexual violence using Justice for Esther as a case of reference. After the findings of the study, the researcher also noted that there are areas that can be enhanced to create other useful studies. There are still many unexplored areas in media and violence. The researcher recommends the following studies to be done:
- A study on the agenda setting role of media with regard to sexual violence.
- Framing of other kinds of sexual violence, especially with regard to defiling of boys and raping of old women, which have been reported in media several times.
- Framing and priming of gender violence.
- A comparative study of framing of sexual violence on girls vis-à-vis that on boys.
- A study on media portrayal of chauvinism and feminism in Nigeria.
- Media as a tool for activism and rights promotion.
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