The general Manager, Trend FM, Asaba, Delta State, Ijeoma Felicity Uba has expressed concerns over the high rate of fake news particularly in social media. A Mass Communication graduate from the Auchi Polytechnic, Edo State, and alumnus of the Reuters Journalism Institute, London, she is calling on professional journalists to arrest the ugly trend by taking over the social media.
She has had media stints with various media establishments, including radio, television and newspaper, before her engagement with Trend FM. She rose through the ranks to clinch her current position.
In this interview with Christopher Oji, the Amazon warned that fake news could destroy a nation if not properly managed. She advised that orthodox journalists, not new media players, should take over the social media from quacks and untrained persons. She also discussed the many challenges confronting radio stations and other burning issues.
You are in a male-dominated field; how do you deal with the issue of gender complex?
I am fragile and effeminate, being a woman, but I am sure-footed and strong-willed. As a female, I have my emotions but I cope well as a journalist. I recognise the social tendency for macho supremacy, in view of the intrinsic maleness of the Nigerian cultural environment. Yet, I don’t believe in playing second fiddle. Anyone can excel as a media professional, whether the person is a man or a woman. Though the press is male-dominated population-wise, especially in Nigeria, women journalists are not laggards; we are even doing better.
On the flipside, the most famous journalists in contemporary history are women. Who is more journalist than Amanpour or Anderson? As a journalist, I am not following men. I can say with all humility that I am running with them, even as a general manager.
What are your challenges as head of a radio station?
My challenges are many but they are not peculiar phenomena. For instance, there is the power issue. We spend most of our revenue on diesel to power our generators. Public power supply is ever unreliable. Cash inflow is difficult. We do our best but advertisement remains challenging. The economy is taking a toll on us. We have a good radio, adjudged the leading station in the South-South by credible authorities, but we are striving hard to stay afloat. As a private station, there is no official subvention, unlike what obtains among public broadcasting media across Nigeria. What has kept us in the face of huge challenges is innovation, in addition to creativity and matchless tenacity to survive and lead. And we are leading not just in Asaba or Delta but also far afield. We are streaming online worldwide. We are loud and clear in Delta, Anambra, Imo, Edo, Abia, and Kogi among others. Trend 100.9 FM is an urban radio with crisp signals wafting with content and unique style. Our workers are savvy, young and ingenious. We are trend-setters in music, news and advertisements. Our programming is cosmopolitan and engaging. We truly trend as our name implies. Trend is a funky radio station.
How do you see the future of radio broadcasting in Nigeria, considering the preference for visual journalism?
The future is bright. With the advent of cyber journalism, radio will keep evolving. With technology, you can listen to radio in any part of the world through the Internet and other apps.
Radio can never die. It is a central feature of our lives. I don’t even believe that there is preference for visual journalism, which is pictures, whether motion or static. Radio has its appeal. It is easy and immersive. Radio is the most impactful medium of mass communication. With radio, you can multi-task and still get informed, entertained and educated. Radio is everywhere. In your car, village, town, office, school, name it. You can listen to the radio while you keep moving with whatever you are doing and in your language. Radio is so easy with life.
The mad rush by quacks into online journalism is becoming too embarrassing, with fake news, disinformation and misinformation growing at alarming rates. How do you think fake news can be checkmated and what are the implications of fake news on us as a people?
Social media is the greatest addition to the mass media. It is delightful; so poignant and instantaneous as it delivers without delay. But, fake news is its greatest undoing. A large percentage of information on social media is fake news. It is more in Nigeria because most people don’t bother to read. The dwindling educational system is making things worse. Most people don’t care to read and double-check facts. In mainstream journalism, like radio, TV and newspaper, we say facts are sacred but opinions are free. But on social media, anything goes. This will continue for a long time. Majority of social media users are young, lacking in basic training and orientation in journalism. People post anything that catches their fancy, often fake news. Sadly, this goes on because traditional journalists have failed to take over the social media. A good number of trained journalists are not active on social media, whether Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, among others. I know a newspaper editor that has no presence on social media. When journalists are backward on social media, it poses a big problem. Fake news, unverified information, can inflame and destroy. The Rwandan genocide of 1994 was sparked off by fake news. For a diverse society like Nigeria, which is very volatile as a result of religion and tribe, we need to be careful about what information we spread. Fake news can bring about war. It can spark off ethnic and religious crises. Nonetheless, I do not subscribe to regulation of social media, as being proposed by the government, because it will be abused and politicized. The general insincerity of politicians will not make it work. Bodies like the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Nigeria Guild Editors (NGE), Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) and even Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) can collaborate to tackle fake news. There are relevant press legislations in Nigeria that can be enforced to tackle the menace of fake news on social media. There is nothing wrong with social media; only the users are bad. Journalists must shake off lethargy to dominate the social media and lead it right.
As your organisation celebrates its fifth anniversary, how has the journey been and what are the challenges?
We are grateful to God; so grateful for His grace. We are on top of our game. It has been five years of phenomenal broadcasting. I am happy to be part of the success story of the number one radio station in the Niger Delta. We have maintained that position for three consecutive years now. If we are doing well as staff, it is because we have a bulwark. The vision-bearer of Trend FM, Agatha Amata, is a doyen of broadcast journalism, the woman with the longest running talk show in the history of Nigeria. She is the charming face behind the popular TV programme, ‘Inside Out with Agatha,’ for over two decades. She is a woman who loves big dreams and resounding feats. Agatha is our inspiration; our good taskmaster, and our official mascot who leads so well by showing us the light.
There is a popular saying that women’s education ends in the kitchen, do you agree with that? Why are you competing with men and what is your take on calls for more women to go into politics and business?
Yes, women should take a centre stage in politics. Men have tried, so let women take over. Without fear of sounding immodest, I will say that women make better leaders and the statistics are there. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is on my mind. I am thinking of Dora Akinyuli, God bless her soul; Ibukun Awosika; Pastor Funke Adejumo; Virgy Etiaba; and of course my boss, Agatha Amata.
What can the government and private individuals do to prevent radio stations from going into extinction?
Funding, patronage, recognition and more engagement; the list is endless.
Is there any programme in your station that addresses issues of youths and crime, or one that impacts on the youths and kids?
Yes, we do. Trend FM has the youth and young at heart as its target audience. This is one of the reasons virtually all our programmes are audience-participatory. Apart from TrendTalk, which is a current affairs programme, we have two programmes, Girls Hangout and Guys Hangout, specifically for the youths.