1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
The media are saddled with the onus of bringing to people’s perception issues they have to be informed about. The way and manner of their reportage of issues that are rooted in conflict have attracted a lot of discourse. People have almost always believed that their presentation is informed by the need to protect those in a disadvantaged position irrespective of whose ox is gored in the long run. Hence, they are seen as devotees of a bias reportage. In the light of this, public perception of media coverage delineates what view they have on the issues that are covered by the media in an attempt to keep the public abreast of current events. The rising wave of conflict involving herdsmen and farmers in so many communities and states in Nigeria today is major national security issues (Otsuka, 2010). The perpetrators of this nature of conflict are undeterred in their marauding exploits due largely to the lack of reprimand from security agencies, the government and to some extent the mass media (Iro, 2014; Okoli, 2014). Although, the present imbroglio has so many factors contributing to its infamy, scholars have been able to trace some of this to include climatic and environmental change, depletion in natural resources in the extreme Northern parts of the country (Uhembe, 2015). Others were able to identify political, religious, ethnic, economics, land tenure system and historical feuds as factors that have contributed largely to the notoriety of the herdsmen attacks across the country. In addition, media, scholars too have openly criticised the manner in which the current herdsmen and Fulani crisis has been reported and have argued that the media have reported it disproportionately, sectionally, sensationally and thereby lacking the element of objectivity and conflict management to a large extent (Adamu, 2016a and Adamu, 2016b). This later affects the way in which the public view or perceive the role which the mass media plays in such situation as being the harbinger of tension. Celebrities, politicians and corporations all face the same scrutiny by the public they serve, and it can be very difficult to overcome a negative perception by the public. While individual companies may strive to do the right things for the right reasons, how the public views the industry as a whole can make those things much more challenging to put into motion. Public perception is not necessarily inaccurate or based on something other than the truth. The public at large can often receive enough factual information in order to form a general opinion about a public figure, celebrity or industry without relying on innuendo or unfounded rumours. There can be instances, however, when the perception of a situation is affected by other issues, such as cultural bias or prejudice. A defendant accused of a heinous criminal act may or may not be guilty of the actual crime, but perception of that type of crime can be difficult for a jury to ignore while deliberating .This social phenomenon known as public perception can also be seen as the difference between an absolute truth based on facts and a virtual truth shaped by popular opinion, reputation or even prejudices. It also refers to the conscious understanding that people have of public and official issues. There could also be basic differences between the factual truth and also their virtual truth influenced by the general public opinion and the mass media. All political and public figures and companies are subject to public scrutiny which therefore makes them pursue the correct path to avoid the perils of negative public perception. According to the French scientist, Alexis de Tocqueville, an opinion that establishes itself within the majority of the people in a community, persists for a longer time as it is not attacked by anyone. Public Opinion or perception is largely essentially influenced by media and public relations. The mass media use numerous advertising techniques to convey their messages and influence the thoughts of the people on important problems. People’s opinions rely on numerous factors like their immediate situations, their social factors, and their already existing knowledge and system of beliefs and values. Opinion leaders who voice their opinions on popular issues and problems have a major role in influencing public perception regarding them.
1.2 STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
Whenever there is a conflict between farmers and herdsmen or pastorals, it is normally viewed by scholars like Adekunle and Adisa, Onuoha (2010), Adamu (2013b) to be the direct product and contestation for scare resource to sustain livelihood and livestock. Others have often analysed the extent of coverage of this nature of conflict using variables like prominence and media’s ability to manage conflict. Since the way the conflict is reported goes a long way in either assuaging or provoking the parties involved (Adamu, 2016a, 2016b, 2013a; Akpan, Odey, & Olofu-Adeoye, 2013) the need to understudy the way such reportage and coverage are perceived by conflict victims and actors becomes pertinent. Alongside these issues, the media’s role in coverage and reportage is also a new frontier in researching on the level of objectivity and conflict management. Furthermore, the need to also narrow the media coverage of the Fulani herdsmen/Farmers conflict in Benue state in particular becomes the premises on which this work which examines the public perception of the media coverage of herdsmen and farmers conflict in Benue State is founded. The research is therefore investigates into whether the media was objective in the coverage of the herdsmen and farmers conflict in Benue state and if the coverage of the herdsmen and Fulani conflict escalate or deescalate the conflict in the state.
1.3AIMS OF THE STUDY
The major purpose of this study is to examine public perception of Nasarawa broadcasting service reportage of herdsmen/ farmers conflict. Other general objectives of the study are:
1. To examine how the media handle the reportage of these crises in a turbulent society like Nigeria.
2. To examine the audience views on the perspective of Nasarawa broadcasting service news on conflict reporting.
3. To examine the impact of public perception on media reportage of conflict in Nigeria.
4. To examine the ways media reportage have enhanced or reduced these conflicts.
5. To examine the relationship between the environment and media reportage.
6. To examine government’s policies that will ensure effective mass media reportage of environmental issues so as to minimize losses and damages.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
1. How do the media handle the reportage of these crises in a turbulent society like Nigeria?
2. What are the audience views on the perspective of Nasarawa broadcasting service news on conflict reporting?
3. What are the impacts of public perception on media reportage of conflict in Nigeria?
4. In what ways have media reportage enhanced or reduced these conflicts?
5. What is the relationship between the environment and media reportage?
6. What are the government’s policies that will ensure effective mass media reportage of environmental issues so as to minimize losses and damages?
1.5 RESEARCH HYPOTHESES
H01: There is no impact of public perception on media reportage of conflict in Nigeria.
H02: There is no significant relationship between environment and media reportage.
1.6 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
This study will be of great significance to the following people and in the following ways.
a. The media from time immemorial are charged with various roles of informing and enlightening the public, so this work will be useful to them by encouraging the media to carry out their functions well, despite the challenges that they face from time to time.
b. The study will provide reliable feedback data on audience view of media coverage of conflicts and also provide its strengths and weakness which will serve as a tool for improvement in the media outfit including both electronic and print.
c. It will serve as a data base for Mass communication researchers and scholars who may be embarking on similar research in the future.
1.7SCOPE OF THE STUDY
The study is based on the public perception of Nasarawa broadcasting service reportage of herdsmen/ farmers conflict: case study of Benue state.
1.8 LIMITATION OF STUDY
Financial constraint- Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview).
Time constraint- The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work.
1.8 DEFINITION OF TERMS
Perception: Is meant to be a process by which we become aware of change in our environment through the senses. Perception about a thing or an issue leads to opinion formation or change about that thing or issue. Perception is often selected support an inner consistency among a person’s beliefs, attitudes and value. In the context of this study, therefore, perception is seen as the way people view or think concerning an issue or something.
Media: Dictionary meaning sees it as the main ways which large number of people receives information.