This 2-page research summary shares findings of an evaluation of the Media Support For Strengthening Advocacy, Good Governance And Empowerment (MESSAGE) project in Nigeria. Led by BBC Media Action, with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), MESSAGE is a four-year project providing technical training to local radio partner stations to help them present governance related material in an accessible format.
According to the research brief, Nigeria has had difficulty ensuring public officials are held accountable for decisions they have made, and there have been low levels of public involvement in the political process. This is partly because of low capability within the media sector to produce programmes that encourage public debate and report on government decision making. By working with a select number of partner stations to improve their capacity to report on governance matters, the MESSAGE project is designed to increase public involvement and knowledge of governance issues. BBC Media Action provided a number of media development activities including technical training, as well as continuing to support the production of a long-running and popular English-language radio drama called Story Story.
Repeating similar studies carried out in 2010 and 2011, a survey took place in May and June 2012 covering eight states (out of a possible 37) in Nigeria. In total, 2,015 respondents between the ages of 18 and 64 took part, covering both urban and rural regions. This survey was designed to evaluate the effectiveness of the MESSAGE project and shifts in audience knowledge of key governance issues.
Local partner stations working with BBC Media Action were found to reach approximately 13 million people in the eight states in the last twelve months. For most people surveyed, the media was their most important source of information regarding political issues such as elections (62%). Overall, findings suggest that the media (including TV and radio) continues to serve as the main source of information regarding governance issues, and that listeners to MESSAGE partner stations felt better informed about these issues than listeners to non-partner stations. For example, listeners of project partner stations were more likely to report being informed about election issues (81%) and political parties (72%) in the 2011 national elections than listeners of other non-partner stations (76% and 65% respectively). However, very few listeners (8%) had phoned or sent an SMS to a programme on the radio or TV, suggesting that there is a need for stations to improve audience involvement. This area requires further development, in order for the programmes to be responsive to issues of public concern, and to provide a mechanism for listeners to ask questions of public officials.
The summary concludes that working in partnership with media organisations is an effective method for increasing the public's knowledge of political issues, and engaging the public in the political process. However, one area that stations need to work on is developing programmes and methods of communication which encourage listeners to directly engage with the media. This would enable the public to use the media as a vehicle to communicate their views with the government.
BBC Media Action website on December 14 2012.