Deepening Audience Research for Electoral Cycle Programming


In a bid to further strengthen the broadcast media to provide fair, accurate and ethical coverage of the electoral process in Nigeria, the Institute for Media and Society (IMS) organised a two-day capacity building for broadcast media practitioners, with the theme: Deepening Audience Research for Electoral Cycle Programming.

The two-day activity was a follow up to earlier training engagements in audience research targeted at improving media capacity to understand their diverse audience, to enable them develop the appropriate contents, particularly towards the electoral cycle.

The activity brought together broadcast journalists from programmes/news and current affairs of Television and Radio stations across Nigeria provided opportunity for practitioners to share their experiences and also acquired more skills in audience research.

As the use of audience research grows within the media industry, it becomes imperative to expand capacity building engagements which introduces new innovations into practice and enable further penetration and deepening of audience research across the industry.

Speaking at the opening of the two days capacity building with the theme:  Deepening Audience Research for Electoral Cycle Programming, the Executive Director of IMS, Dr. Akin Akingbulu appreciated participants for making time to attend the event, and further noted that practitioners need relevant skills to deliver their expected roles in the democratic governance process.

He made it clear that the media should not just assume  to  know their audience and what the audience want or need. Dr. Akingbulu emphasised the need for the broadcast media to understand their audience, which according to him, requires scientific methods.

Dr. Akingbulu  also noted that past capacity-building activities in audience research have continued to produce tangible results, as the understanding of the concept of audience research was being deepened within the broadcast media industry and other relevant stakeholders. He observed that capacity of practitioners in audience research has continued to improve with the introduction of a resource materials which came out initial engagements organised by IMS in 2018.

In view of upcoming elections, more importantly the 2023 general elections, Dr. Akingbulu reiterated the need for media professionals and platforms to improve on contents towards educating and informing citizens, who solely rely on the information provided by the media to make informed decisions.

He urged participants to make good use of the opportunity provide by the training to develop the required capacity, and also use the skills and knowledge acquired to improve the delivery of quality programming targeted at the electoral cycle.

Highlights of the Two-Day Capacity Building:

The two-day capacity building was engaged through presentations from facilitators on different sub-themes in audience research.

Interactive sessions also provided opportunity for participants to share their experiences on what their understanding of audience research and how this could inform good programming, particularly for electoral cycle.   Participant were of the view that with the new knowledge and skills acquired, they were set to change the face of electoral cycle programming in their individual platforms.

Components of the Electoral Cycle and What the Audience Expect:

In his presentation on components of the electoral cycle and what the audience expect, Professor Ayobami Ojebode maintained that good electoral cycle programming/content is very crucial to the building of a viable democracy in the country, and as such efforts should be made by media platforms to understand audience perception and preference, particularly as it relates to the electoral cycle programming, which provides citizens opportunity to be well educated on issues affecting them and their participation in governance.

He noted in as much as citizens rely so much on the media to get relevant information which would help them make informed decisions during different stages of the electoral process, it then became highly imperative for the media to give attention to audience perception and demands which can only be identified through a deliberate action of conducting audience research.

While giving a x-ray of corporate social responsibility of the media towards the society within which they operate, the communication don explained that media platforms should not forget to play their roles of setting agenda through the deployment of contents which promotes the interest of the public, particularly in performing the role of watchdog and a bridge between government and the governed, thereby making a good input towards achieving good governance.

He maintained that the trust reposed in the media by the public is so enormous, and as such, the media cannot afford to breach this trust else they will become mere tool of propaganda in their audience eye.

Speaking of what the audience expects of the media, Ojebode noted that the expectation of the audience is to have an unbiased media that will give them the right information, and a medium through which they could relate with the government. Give these clear expectations, the media holds it as a responsibility to work professionally in the delivery of their responsibilities.

Giving a summary of components of the electoral cycle, the facilitator explained that the electoral cycle is made up of long complex processes, beginning with the pre-election process, elections, vote count, announcement and post-election, provision of legal framework for resolving election disputes through Election Tribunals, then Appeal Court and finally the Supreme Court.