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The case for an independent body with power and resources which oversees the behaviour of firms globally

Introduction

Moon (2002) contends that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) “is only one of several terms in currency designed to capture the practices and norms of new business-society relations. There are contending names, concepts or appellations for corporate social responsibility” (p. 3). Addressing this “business-society relations”, in a phrase he coined “the triple bottom line” (TBL), Elkington (1994) argues that for companies to be socially and environmentally responsible, they ought to be able to account not only for profit or economic value, they also must be responsible for people and the planet. Along similar lines Carroll (1983) argues that:

To be socially responsible then means that profitability and obedience to the law are foremost conditions when discussing the firm’s ethics and the extent to which it supports the society in which it exists with contributions of money, time and talent (p. 508)

For Handy (2002):

The purpose of a business is not to make profit, full stop. It is to make a profit in order to enable it to do something more or better. What that ‘something’ is becomes the real justification for the existence of the business (HBR, p.4)

Consequently, this essay seeks to explore Corporate Social Responsibility, ethics and sustainability in business, and the role of an independent body which sets the agenda and regulate businesses to behave responsibly.

Corporate social responsibility

The needs of the different actors vary in terms of CSR, in some cases substantially. Primary actors in this field include governments, the media, customers, people, shareholders, companies, the environment and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Through history we have learnt that public opinion is crucial in bringing about social change, examples include the Vietnam War and Civil Rights Movement in the US. Once the public started seeing pictures in newspapers and visual coverage on TV, the emotional distance between the public and these phenomena suddenly reduced significantly. These stories invoked public debates, and empathy shifted towards the victims as their side of the story unfolded, and the people started asking new questions. Strengthening this theory, Boyd (1994) argues that “news journalism has broadly agreed set of values, often referred to as ‘newsworthiness’”. Newsworthiness is simply stories that are deemed worthwhile for news reporting, and they often fall within the twelve criteria set out by Galtung and Ruge (1965).

Carroll (1979) argues that CSR “encompasses the economic, legal, ethical and discretionary expectations that society has of organisations at a given point in time” (p. 500). Time is important in Carroll’s argument. In recent years we have seen changes in public opinion through news reporting, education, and public awareness campaigns by NGOs and other pressure groups. NGOs are often very sophisticated in using the media (both mainstream and social media) to move their agenda forward. Their investigative reporting has been responsible for exposure of unethical practices of Multinational Enterprises (MNEs), especially in developing countries. For example, social media is often used to spread messages, disseminate ideas, update members, recruit volunteers, fundraise, and inspire calls to action. These activities have resulted in demands from the public for transparency from companies, thereby forcing governments to put in place legislations to address some of these challenges. However, critics will argue that we still have a long way to go.

Carroll (1983) advanced that: “corporate social responsibility involves the conduct of a business so that it is economically profitable, law abiding, ethical and socially supportive” (p. 608). Even though scholars like Sheehy (2015) once described CSR as a type of international private business self-regulation, elements of CSR have now evolved from company policies to legal requirements — especially in the West. For example, we see the UK government not just tackling tax evasion, but also incorporating tax avoidance and money laundering into the legal framework. We also see the recent Modern Slavery Act 2018, in a bid to address abuse and exploitation of people, especially within supply chains of MNEs.

These developments present a plethora of strategic options for businesses. This includes, compliance with the law, compliance with normative ethical standards, or going beyond these ethical norms. Sadly, we also see companies exploiting instruments of CSR as tools for competitive advantage over their rivals in areas, especially in product branding and promotion, to the extent where claims are sometimes exaggerated. And others who fail in promoting their CSR credentials effectively, leading to shrinkage in market share and position in the process. However, David (2001) argues that CSR has no bearing on company’s bottom line (p. 171). Which opens the debate between the Moral Case and the Business Case for CSR. In the spirit of this debate, Shamir (2011) maintains that the goal post has in fact shifted from the original efforts to curtail the powers of MNEs (moral case), to strategic level business strategies by MNEs (business case) (pp. 313–336).

Carroll (1991) came up with a pyramid which incorporates four elements: economic, legal, ethical and philanthropy in sequential order of priority (see figure 1 below). As a health warning Carroll mentions that these four elements are in fact in tension with each other, with the economic argument being a constant in relation to the others. It takes the shape of economic vs legal; economic vs ethical, economic vs ethical; and, or economic vs philanthropic. However, citing the work of other scholars in relation to the impact of culture on CSR priorities, Visser (2006) argues for an African context. Visser advances that, “[a]lthough no comparative empirical study has been conducted, it is speculatively argued that the order of the layers in Africa — if they are taken as an indicator of relative emphasis assigned to various responsibilities — differs from Carroll’s classic pyramid” (p. 37), (see figure 2 below).

Figure 1. Pyramid of CSR, (Carroll, 1991, p. 42)
Figure 2. Africa’s CSR Pyramid, (Visser, 2006, p. 37)

Carroll’s definition also infers the existence of a psychological contract between society and companies, thereby placing the onus on companies to ensure that they are constantly in engagement, or in tune with the demands of society to stay abreast with CSR. This stance is more of a reactionary measure as to strategic, with very strong likelihood of leaving companies in the dark. In contrast, Baden (2016) argues for a revision of Carroll’s position due to “the changing role of business in society and the power of business relative to government in the 21st century necessitates an updating and reviewing of priorities suggested by Carroll’s pyramid of CSR” (p. 14). Contrary to the Carroll’s idea of the economy being paramount in terms of priorities, citing (Kang and Wood, 1995), Baden notes that if a business must break legal and ethical law to make profit, then that business should not even exist in the first place (2016, p. 15). Highlighting the negative influence of Carroll’s pyramid in scholarship, Baden notes that such ideas give birth to the profit before ethics attitude we see in boardrooms today (2016, p15). Mentioning changes like the increase in number of foreign direct investment, power, and influence of MNEs, Baden (2016) posits:

It is concluded, based on both moral arguments and empirical research, that Carroll’s pyramid of CSR now represents the relative priorities of business responsibilities both as they ought to be, and as they currently perceived by both business and non-business respondents. (p. 14)

Citing research on the relationship of Carroll’s four responsibilities of businesses, by Aupperle (1984) and Clarkson (1988); Baden (2016) maintains that a strong inverse relationship exists between the economic and ethical domains of the pyramid, and that the more weight is given to economic concerns, and less to ethical concerns (p. 14). Therefore, “CSR is at heart primarily a moral concept, designed to highlight the responsibility of business to (as a minimum) avoid causing harm to society and the environment, or more proactively, contributing to the welfare of society and its stakeholders” (Baden, 2016, p. 15)

Business ethics

As noted in the section on CSR, by and large ethics serves as overarching framework that regulates how entities behave. Entities here include companies, organisations, governments, people, and autonomous machines. Scholars argue for two dimensions to business ethics, namely: normative business ethics and descriptive business ethics. Crane and Matten (2016) defines normative ethics as “ethical theories that propose to prescribe the morally correct way of acting (p. 86), while, “descriptive theories seek to tell us what business people actually do — and more importantly, they will help to explain why they do those things” (p. 135).

Carroll (1991) lists ethics as the third level in his pyramid, just above legal responsibilities. For Crane and Matten (2016) ethics takes the shape of a spectrum, as such in business there can be good and even bad ethics (p. 4). Crane and Matten advance that, “[b]usiness activity would be impossible if corporate directors always lied; if buyers and sellers never trusted each other; or if employees refused to ever help each other” (ibid). Advancing their argument, they define, “business ethics as the study of business situations, activities, and decision where issues of right and wrong are addressed” (2016, p. 5). But in contrast to this school of thought Duska (2000) posits that:

Business pushes one way, ethics the other. If achieving ever-increasing profit is the basic purpose and principle of business, and economic profitability is the primary and overriding factor in strategic business decisions, ethical behavior and business behavior eventually must conflict. (p. 112)

Scholarship on business practices have largely been informed from a Western perspective, and by and large these businesses have operated for selfish reasons. Sadly, Western some businesses have been known to serve as proxies in Africa and other developing countries, supporting the political agenda of their home country. They have been known to interfere with politics in foreign countries and to facilitate corruption. Some benefited from wars, slavery, colonialism, the nuclear arms race during the cold war; while others have caused ecological degradation. That said, some have also acted as catalyst of social change. This includes the philanthropic vision of Cadbury, Peabody, Rowntree, and in recent years — Microsoft, through the Melinda Gates Foundation. These firms will take the credit for their moral vision and corporate citizenship. The social housing ventures by Peabody for instance will go on to serve as a template for council housing in England.

In addition, instead of cooperation, businesses often compete. On the odd occasion when they cooperate, it is mostly to exploit the customers — hence the need for laws and regulations against cartels, oligopoly, monopoly; and other regulatory tools to protect consumers. Competition sometimes leads to companies outdoing each other to a point where a rival is forced out of business. Presenting their case for Blue Ocean Strategy, Kim and Mauborgne (2018) argue that, “while disruption may be what everyone fervently focuses on today, you don’t have to disrupt and displace others to create” (INSEAD). Thus, Kim and Mauborgne (2018) posits:

In a world where the strategic focus of organisations is on competing and disrupting, it is difficult for business leaders to do social good. From a blue ocean perspective, however, this doesn’t have to be the case — what is good for business can be good for society (ibid)

Whenever a company is displaced, or a market disrupted, while the winning firm benefit from creaming the best staff from rivals, a huge majority of others are left with no jobs. The social and economic impact on these employees, their dependants, the government and the wider society is up for debate. And the big question remains — what are the real benefits to customers when one business forces another out of business? In similar vein Marx (1848) contends that, “[t]he bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honored and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage laborers.” (Communist Manifesto). Little wonder why in a bid to discredit proponents of business ethics in the US, they were often tagged as communists.

Sustainability

On a global scale, building on the 8 Millennium Development Goals (MGDs) in 2000, the United Nations (UN) introduced the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a wider vision for its 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development. While the MDGs provided a scope and context for international development, including environmental sustainability as the 7th goal, critics argue that it was limited in scope. An impact assessment carried out by the UN in 2015 note that: “[t]he assessment of progress towards the MDGs has repeatedly shown that the poorest and those disadvantaged because of gender, age, disability or ethnicity are often bypassed” (The Millennium Development Goals Report). That same year the UN completed and introduced a bigger and ambitious agenda in the shape of the 17 SDGs, and 169 sub agendas.

In a bid to drive down cost we have seen MNEs take advantage of globalisation and technological development by moving their operations to developing countries. Global value chains are often difficult to manage for these firms because of their size and complexity. As a result, elements of operations are often outsourced to smaller providers with a view that these firms focus on their core value proposition. In some cases, this also meant that legal and ethical standards in the West are often sacrificed on the altar of profits and returns for shareholders, as they capitalise on the proximity from their home countries and lax laws in the developing world to pursue profit motives. These practices are exhaustive — including child labour, bribery, modern slavery, environmental degradation, tax evasion, and poor working conditions. Simply put, some MNEs act as if they are above the legal standards in these foreign countries, thus sustainability has to be closely linked with the TBL.

Writing on Elkington’s perspective of the TBL in relation to sustainability, Crane and Matten (2016) argue that “[Elkington’s] view of the TBL is that it represents the idea that business does not have just one single goal — namely adding economic value — but that it has an extended goal which necessitates adding environmental and social value too” (p. 33). Crane and Matten (2016), posit that “at a basic level, sustainability appears to be primarily about system maintenance, as in ensuring that our actions do not impact upon the system — for example, the Earth or the biosphere — in such a way that its long-term viability is threatened” (p. 31). For Bruntland (1987), sustainability is “[d]evelopment that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Report for the World Commission on Environment and Development). Its sphere encompasses environmental, economic and social impact (Crane and Matten, 2016, p. 33). Therefore, sustainability provides an “essential new conceptual frame for assessing not only business activities specifically, but industrial and social development more generally” (ibid).

Conclusion

Corporate Social Responsibility, Business Ethics and Sustainability serve to motivate businesses to play an active role in self-reflection and responsible practice within society, as reflected in the spirit of the TBL. However, one will fail in doing justice to these doctrines without considering the religious dimension. Religions broadly serve as human efforts to come to terms with the complexities of our world, especially around the idea of cause and effect. In our evolution it provided comfort and answers to phenomena that were beyond our comprehension.

If we take to consideration the three Abrahamic faiths, for instance, religion takes the shape of the existence of a metaphysical realm and physical identity. The metaphysical realm includes the existence of a Divine being which acts as a focal point for theology and accountability. Laws, music, poetry, folklore, relationships, customs, education, cultures, business and all other levels of human interactions are underpinned by a theological framework. On another level, it is further enhanced with foundational myths which serves as mythical stories that binds the community with a common heritage. Both dimensions provide anchors which serve to preserve the community. So, when a member of the community fails to comply with these standards they are either: exiled, punished or executed; depending on the gravity of their offence.

In the West for instance, once we moved from polytheism to monotheism, the next logical step was the idea of an invisible entity that does not necessarily need to be represented by any visual object or confined to a physical location. Then we began to articulate the possibility that this entity inspires or work through us as humans in bringing about his purpose on earth, hence we are accountable to this Divine entity when our time on earth expires. However, The Enlightenment brought about new questions. These questions forced us to begin to articulate the possibility that collectively we are in fact masters of our destiny, and there is no Divine being or entity. The conundrum however as Nietzsche (1882) realised is the fact that morality and religion in the West are in fact intertwined. In other words, while we might have been successful in proving that there is no Divine being (at least in the sense conjured in religious settings), we still adhere to moral precepts that are largely Christian — owing to our history. As such our social norms in the West are largely derived from our Christian heritage (The Gay Science).

On a global scale, businesses are faced with the moral dilemma, that in the absence of a universal metaphysical being in which we are all accountable to for our motives and actions, ethics becomes a personal or cultural construct. Furthermore, with developments in technology we are now at the stage where the role of the Divine being can be outsourced to autonomous entities. Questions include: what moral and ethical framework will these entities operate on? If they operate with our standards, we run the risk of setting standards that might seem ethical in the short term but fall short in the future. Case in point, slavery was right in many quarters in the West. In fact, it provided the funds and impetus for the industrial revolution — even the church supported and invested in it. Consequently, is it then possible for these machines to evolve to a point where they can set standards, and educate humanity about ethics, CSR and sustainability? Only time will tell.

For now, in the absence of a universal religion, ethics being shaped by cultural biases, competition for customers and scarce resources prevalent; businesses are highly unlikely to act ethically organically. Therefore, it becomes necessary to have a global standard which is championed and monitored by an independent arbiter — a role the UN can assume. With more powers and resources, the UN can take centre stage in setting global agendas around ethics, CSR, and sustainability. It will have the power also to enforce sanctions on offenders — including State actors and corporations. For we have seen through history that our challenges are often never resolved except we take responsibility to fight against the tides and bring about lasting change in our world and for all of humanity.

 

Bibliography

Baden, D. (2016) A reconstruction of Carroll’s Pyramid of corporate social responsibility for the 21st century. International Journal of Corporate Social Responsibility, 1–48. (In Press)

Boyd, A. (1994) Broadcast JournalismTechniques of Radio and TV News. Oxford: Focal

Carroll, A. (1979). A Three-Dimensional Conceptual Model of Corporate Social Performance. Academy of Management Review, 4(4), 497–505

Carroll, A. (1983). Corporate social responsibilityWill industry respond to cut-backs in social program funding? Vital Speeches of the Day, 49, p. 604–608

Carroll, A. (1991). The pyramid of corporate social responsibility: toward moral management of organizational stakeholders. Business Horizons. 34 (4): 39–48.

Crane, A & Matten, D 2016, Business ethics: managing corporate citizenship and sustainability in the age of globalization. 4th edn, Oxford University Press.

David, H. (2001). Misguided Virtue: False Notions of Corporate Social Responsibility. Institute of Economic Affairs. p. 171

Elkington, J. (1994) Towards the Sustainable Corporation: Win-Win-Win Business Strategies for Sustainable Development. California Management Review, 36, 90–100.

Galtung, J.; Holmboe Ruge, M. (1965). The Structure of Foreign News. The Presentation of the Congo, Cuba and Cyprus Crises in Four Norwegian Newspapers. Journal of Peace Research. 2: 64–91.

Handy, C. (2002). What’s a Business For? Harvard Business Review. [online] Available at: https://hbr.org/2002/12/whats-a-business-for [Accessed 9 May 2018]

Kim and Mauborgne (2018) Business as a Force for Good: A Blue Ocean Perspective. INSEAD Knowledge. [online] Available at: https://knowledge.insead.edu/blog/insead-blog/business-as-a-force-for-good-a-blue-ocean-perspective-8431 [Accessed 6 May 2018].

Marx, K., Engel, F (1848). Manifesto of the Communist Party. Marx/Engels Selected Works, Vol. One, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1969, pp. 98–137

Moon, J. (2002). Corporate Social Responsibility: An Overview. In C. Hartley (Ed.), The International Directory of Corporate Philanthropy, First ed.: 3–14. London and New York: Europa Publications

Nietzsche, F., (1882) The Gay Science. Leipzig, Germany

Shamir, R. (2011). Socially Responsible Private Regulation: World-Culture or World-Capitalism? Law & Society Review. 45(2): 313–336.

Sheehy, B. (2015). Defining CSR: Problems and Solutions. Journal of Business Ethics. 131 (3): 625–648.

Wisser, W. (2006) Revisiting Carroll’s CSR Pyramid: An African Perspective, in E.R. Pedersen and M. Hunicke (eds.), Corporate Citizenship in Developing Countries (Copenhagen: Copenhagen Business School Press).

World Commission on Environment and Development (1987). Our Common Future. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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News Values: How and where do Africans in diaspora access news on the continent?

Introduction

Using the Ebola Crisis as a test case, I carried out a content analysis ofadjectives and sources used in the Nigerian coverage. I looked at six newspaper reports (7% sample) from The Telegraph and The Mirror, from July 20th 2014 to October 20th 2014. I then examined my findings using Galtung and Ruge’s twelve factors of News Worthiness.

From that exercise, I realised a 7% sample was insufficient for thorough analysis of an event that ran for 93 days, however sufficient enough for scoping and testing my hypothesis — Is the African voice suppressed?

This research is aimed at exploring: how and where Africans in diaspora access news on the continent.

Literature review

Statistically there has been a general decline in consumption of news from the print media.

By way of background, international news began with William Russell, who reported the Crimean War for The London Times (Harrison, 2006:91). In recent years the CNN effect, a term which characterises the effects of globalisation on news, has meant that media coverage of news and events have grown to have enormous influence on government policies, locally and internationally.

Bakir cited that, “the rise of the internet in the 1990s, newspapers and television news lost their stranglehold on information, and even the well-established global form of news is undergoing challenges, given the millions of bloggers distributed globally.” For consumers, news has become increasingly accessible and free, noting that “Search engines perform a vital function in that they catalogue the web, and these catalogues are updated continuously to keep them current” (1990:193). As a result, consumers can now cherry pick news and share for free with likeminded people across the world within their networks.

But the digital divide (unequal access to global media), also means that not all consumers are having a good deal. Africans have seen conglomerates impose their culture, ideologies and values on their societies (cultural imperialism), as part of the effect of media imperialism, a process whereby the ownership, distribution and content of media in one country are subjected to substantial external pressures from the media interests of any other country, in this case, America and ex-colonial rulers (Bakir, 1990:206).

The impact of the mechanical press on paper was used by Downing and Husband (2005) to describe the damage caused by negative stereotyping in the minds of its victim, this sadly has been the culture of reporting on Africa by Western media, which is still prevalent today. Africans in diaspora are not immune as findings from the content analysis highlighted.

For Robert Picard (2010), news has never been a commercially viable product; many observers confuse short-term problems with long-term trends; shifting media use is at the heart of contemporary financial problems of journalism; and news enterprise can no longer sustain the large organisational structures and financing arrangements that were created during the age of abundant wealth. This coupled with change in consumption habits in most Western countries has led to a steady decline in business for news providers, leading to consolidation through reduction in resources and other cost-cutting policies. These conflict of interests has meant that the needs of Africans in diaspora are neglected as news providers uphold their commercial interest, leading to Market Censorship.

Convergence can equally be brought to the witness stand for: blurring the standards; dumbing down the quality of news; allowing market forces to decide news worthiness; and for upholding triviality and vulgarism (soft news) at the expense of hard news. Like the Trojan horse, entertainment now has a foothold over the media; as a result editorial priorities are either reflecting, or leading the media in some cases. Hence Stuart Allan cited Franklyn:

Entertainment has superseded the provision of information; human interest has supplanted the public interest; measured judgement has succumbed to sensationalism; the trivial has triumphed over the weighty; the intimate relationships of celebrities from soap operas, the world of sport or the royal family are judged more ‘newsworthy’ than the reporting of significant issues and events of international consequence. Traditional news values have been undermined by new values; ‘infotainment’ is rampant. (1997:203).

Methodology and methods

My mission was to find meaning, context and interpretation, hence the howand why questions in my hypothesis, therefore I deployed qualitative research methodologies for my inquiry. According to Strauss and Corbin (1998):

By the term qualitative research we mean any type of research that produces findings not arrived at by statistical procedures or other means of quantification. It can refer to research about person’s lives, lived experiences, behaviours, emotions, and feelings as well as organisational functioning, social movements, cultural phenomena, and interactions between nations. (1998:11).

On qualitative methods, Stern (1980) noted that they can be used, “to explore substantive areas about which little is known or about which much is known to gain novel understandings”, while Strauss and Corbin (1998) alluded that they are most effective when an inquiry requires the need to “obtain the intricate details about phenomena such as feelings, thought processes, and emotions that are difficult to extract or learnt about through more conventional research methods.” (1998:11).

Some examples of qualitative techniques include interviews, focus groups, participant observation, case study, textual analysis, semiotics and ethnography.

There are three types of interview techniques, namely: structured interviews, unstructured interviews and semi-structured interviews. Structured interviews are mostly survey styled, leaving no room for in-depth questioning as questions are already predetermined, it utilises a standard format, and questions are arranged in a specific order. Unstructured interview questions tend to be raised out of what is discussed, in other words the underlying discussion determines the course of the interview therefore making it free-flowing, giving researchers insight into who they are interviewing, and space to express emotions and feelings (reflexivity). It also allows the interviewee space to explore their thoughts on the subject, and to articulate them in their own vocabulary. Semi-structured interview is a mixture of structured and unstructured interviews. It provides researchers with a bit of both worlds, giving room for some pre-planned criteria and areas of discussion, as well as space for organic or natural development as the interview progresses.

Survey

I carried out a survey of 30 participants using survey monkey. 10 questions were developed, with the aim of gleaning habits and demographics. They consisted of a healthy mix of opened, closed, and multiple choice questions. Instructions were clear and easy to follow, my chosen layout was easy on the eyes, questions were short and clear, and most importantly, relevant to my audience. Respondents were given an overview of the project in advance, there were no inducements, and their anonymity and confidentiality protected.

Interview

In preparation for this process, I drew insight from Seidman’s view on interviewing research:

“Interviewing research takes a great deal of time and, sometimes, money. The researcher has to conceptualise the project, establish access and make contact with participants, interview them, transcribe the data, and then work with the material and share what he or she has learned… interviewing is especially labour intensive” (Seidman, 2013:11).

Researchers are advised to avoid “covering too many topics” and being hard pressed to cover everything planned during the course of the process (O’Reilly, 2005:14), in the same breathe the start “can be particularly significant in establishing nature and tone” of the interview. (Hammersley and Atkinson, 1995:142).

From the verbal feedback I received from some of those who participated in the survey, two respondents were invited for a semi-structured interview. Ten leading questioned were adapted using Galtung and Ruges’sNewsworthiness with a view to assess if these values also informed how andwhere they accessed news about the continent.

Data Analysis

Survey

Out of 30 respondents, 25 were female, (18/30) of African heritage, (10/30) were between the age brackets of 18–25, none was over 60, others were scattered in between these two age bands, and they all reside in England.

When asked their views on the sources cited or interviewed in news reportsthose that opted for the Other box left some really interesting comments: “This question is wishy washy views cannot be irrelevant”; “I cannot recall a report on which to judge the sources”; “sources are very biased”; “It depends on the topic”; and “sometimes relevant”. 13 of them did not think the views of sources were relevant of irrelevant; 6 thought they were irrelevant, while the rest thought they were relevant.

Responses to the question, what are you views on the adjectives used in describing events about Africa in reports, were in line with Downing and Husband’s (2005) view on news reporting about the continent by the West. 18 respondents (an alarming 60% of the sample) thought they were negative, (10/30) respondents thought they were neither negative nor positive, one thought they were positive, while another left this comment, “positive and a bit of negative on mismanagement of funds”.

12 claimed that they accessed their news via the internet, the same amount as those who opted for mainstream news outlets like BBC, ITV or Channel 4. 11 preferred News from Cable or Satellite networks like Al Jazeera, CNN, Fox, Sky; with comments from some about smaller African news providers like BEN TV, African voice TV, and ABN TV. Only 4 respondents relied on newspapers for their news, all 4 relied on freesheet, 2 also read broadsheet, and a further 2 were tabloid readers; others opted for radio and magazines.

In response to the question, how often do you read/access news on Africa,responses were as follows: 5 — daily, 5 — Weekly, 3 — fortnightly, 1 — monthly, and 11 — as and when.

These results served as prompts for further investigation in my interviews.

Interviews

Firstly I observed that both interviewees portrayed an African identity, as to a national identity. For instance, the success of the recent Nigerian general election was raised by one interviewee of Rwandan heritage as something that hallmarked a new era for politics in Africa.

Politics came on top in terms of news value with one stating, “It is important for me to know how the countries in Africa are being ruled”. This came as no surprise because news about corruption, poverty, wars and famine always hit the headlines in reports on Africa. Human right and gender inequality also emerged, inspiring this statement:

Political and public policy relevance is vital to me to know what are laws and regulations that govern the country, the way they are applied could have effects on me and others in the country as whole. It’s by these policies we could identify if a country serves justice or not. For instance as a woman I need to know if I am entitled to vote or to be a candidate. There should be a law in place to support my views regarding this issue.

Reports on the economy and issues around debt and aids were described as “depressing” and “biased” as Africa has most of the mineral resources that powers Western economies, as such one stated, “the economic choice is an important one to me, currency is an essential tool in the world to know how a country is growing economically in terms of advancements, security reasons and business purposes.”. Another, “Economic relevance is important to know in Africa because its only growing.”. Related to the economy were social issues, “like health, housing, education, transport, jobs, the list goes on. Each of these, are relevant to me.” One going further to raise issues around fair trade, minimum wage, and fair wage.

In relation to cultural and media imperialism; African culture, diversity and similarities came up, inciting this comment: “My diversity interest is based on people’s opinions from different angles: in culture, the way of living, differences and similarities from different countries.” On news withimportance to society, an interviewee mentioned: “because I want to know how people in society are living their everyday lives. I am interested to know about the lifestyle of individual and what influences their life.” Another noted that news on “faith morality and ethics, are very keys points of life that concern every human being, these topics are my concerns as well. As some religious beliefs atimes clash with culture”.

On their favourite news sources and why, one interviewee stated RT News, while the other quoted a broad array which included BBC News, Channel 4; Al Jazeera, and smaller cable providers like LoveWorld TV, explaining that it was “because of worldwide news and reliability”.

Both interviewees had lost faith in mainstream newspapers, and they were fans of freesheets newspapers for general news, but not for news on Africa.

Critical reflection

While convergence is damaging the news industry in most African countries, divergence is on the rise in West, as we see the market opening to smaller cable providers who are set out to cater for specific niche within the market. This includes faith, music, culture, sports, politics, lifestyle, movies, drama etc. The needs of Africans in diaspora are being addressed through these providers, posing new challenges to more established news providers.

This trend in divergence provides them with a broad array of choice, which comes as no surprise as my content analysis indicated that there was little or no competition in the quality of news reporting on Africa between newspapers in the UK, regardless of political inclination. However, I fear that this development might be arrested through acquisitions by conglomerates in their quest to increase their market share, and through brain drain in their bid to acquire new talents and programme ideas.

As well as internet sources, major news outlets like the BBC World Service and CNN have maintained their place in the hearts of Africans, with AL Jazeera emerging as new favourite, owing to the knowledge and expertise of their reporters, and their culture of applying historic and local context in their reporting.

Conclusion

In 1971 a budding Nigerian artist released an album entitled London Scene. In this album little known Fela Kuti had a 5:51 minutes track: Buy Africa, in which he highlighted the lack of a strong African identity. Using trade as a case study, he tells a story of how Africans would rather buy products produced by the West instead of theirs. He asked the following questions: who will buy our products, how can we generate revenue if we don’t buy our products?

Sadly his song landed on deaf ears at the time, but today, and without any support from governments or corporate institutions, afrobeat (a genre he pioneered), and Nollywood (the Nigerian film industry) have swept Africa. These industries have emerged organically from grassroots movements, and are now key drivers of the divergence revolution upon us.

Demand for afrobeat has seen the footprints of music producers like Wyclef and Kanye West already on the continent. Even TV channels, clubs and mainstream radio stations in the West have taken slices of this cake in varying measures.

With these developments, I’m optimistic. The African voice can no longer be suppressed.

Bibliography

Allan, S. (1999) News Culture. Open University Press: Buckingham.

Galtung, J and Ruge, M. (1965) The Structure of Foreign News. The Presentation of the Congo, Cuba and Cyprus Crises in Four Norwegian Newspapers.” Journal of Peace Research, vol. 2, pp. 64–91.

Hammersley, M., and Atkinson, P. (1995) Ethnography: Principles in Practice, (second edition) London: Routledge.

Husband, P. C, with Professor John D. H. Downing (2005) Representing race. Thousand Oaks, Calif: London: SAGE, 2005.

O’Reilly, J. (2009) Key Concepts in Ethnography. Sage: London

Petley, J. (2012) The Leveson Inquiry: Journalism ethics and press freedom, Journalism, 13(4) 29–538.

Robert Picard, 2010, A Business Perspective on Challenges Facing Journalism in: edited by David A. L. Levy and Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, The changing business of journalism and its implications for democracy, pp 17–24.

Seidman, I. (2006) Interviewing as Qualitative Research: A Guide for Researchers in Education and the Social Sciences Teachers College Press. US.

Stern, P. N. (1980). Grounded theory methodology: Its use and processes. Image: The Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 12, 20–23.

Strauss, A. & Corbin, J. (1998) Basics of Qualitative Research: Techniques and Procedures for Developing Grounded Theory (2nd edition) (Sage: London).

Vian Bakir, (2009) Media production in a global age, Ch7. in: Long, P. and Wall, T. Media Studies: Texts, Production and Context.

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This Sunday at Healingsprings fellowship, Manufactured Consent: Did God Say?

Right from creation, the freedom to make our choices and follow through has been fundamental to our human existence. For instance, in the garden of Eden God gave Adam a choice between the tree of life, or the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. So Adam had at his disposal the information, and the right to make his decision.

However, when Satan came on the scene the story takes a different twist. He said to Eve, “Did God say?”. Once those three words were introduced, her belief system was under enormous stress, and in the end she succumbs to the dream of being like God. At this juncture I hasten to qualify that this doesn’t put the blame on females for humanity’s fall, Adam was equally responsible for the outcome. If anything, it was joint enterprise.

Fast forward to 1988, and we are introduced to a ground breaking work by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky entitled, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media.

In their research they analysed the news media, arguing that the mass media of the United States “are effective and powerful ideological institutions that carry out a system-supportive propaganda function by reliance on market forces, internalised assumptions, and self-censorship, and without overt coercion”.

In simple terms, their work can be encapsulated with these words by Noam Chomsky, “Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state”.

With this in mind, this Sunday I will be exploring the spiritual dimension of information in a lecture entitled, Manufactured Consent: Did God say?

Friends, I’ve come to realise that the information we are exposed to is vital to the fulfilment of our purpose, and ultimately our destiny. In a letter to friends in Rome, Paul made a profound statement which strengthens this argument: “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”.

So why not drop-by for a life-changing experience? This 90 mins might end up being a catalyst for some awesome things.

(6:00 – 7:30)pm

The Drama Room, Bexleyheath Academy, Woolwich Road, Bexleyheath, Kent DA6 7D

There are free parking spaces directly in front of the school and on adjacent streets

Our Big Sunday Celebration can be best described as a community Christian festival. So in the spirit of thanksgiving, together we: sing, pray, give, celebrate life, discuss current affairs, present thoughts from Biblical themes, and encourage one another; like one big family!