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            The power of the mass media to set a nation’s agenda, to focus public attention on a few key public issues, is an immense and well-documented influence. Not only do people acquire factual information about public affairs from the mass media, readers and viewers also learn how much importance to attach to a topic on the basis of the emphasis placed on it in the news. Newspapers provide a host of cues about the salience of the topics in the daily news – lead story on page one, other front page display, large headlines, etc. Television news also offers numerous cues about salience – the opening story on the newscast, length of time devoted to the story, etc. These cues repeated day after day effectively communicate the importance of each topic. In other words, the mass media can set the agenda for the public’s attention to that small group of issues around which public opinion forms. To emphasize this point, Obaze and Ogbiti (2004), quoting Thomas Jefferson’s write up in 1823 stated:”The press is the best instrument for enlightening the minds of man and improving him as a rational, moral and social being….”

The principal outlines of this influence were also sketched by Walter Lippmann (1922), in his literature, Public Opinion, which began with a chapter titled “The World Outside and the Pictures in Our Heads.” As he noted, the mass media are a primary source of those pictures in our heads about the larger world of public affairs, a world that for most citizens is “out of reach, out of sight, out of mind.”  What we know about the world is largely based on what the media decide to tell us. More specifically, the result of this mediated view of the world is that the priorities of the media strongly influence the priorities of the public. Elements prominent on the media agenda become prominent in the public mind.

Social scientists examining this agenda-setting influence of the mass media on the public usually have focused on public issues. The agenda of a news organization is found in its pattern of coverage on public issues over some period of time, a week, a month, an entire year. Over this period of time, whatever it might be, a few issues are emphasized, some receive light coverage, and many are seldom or never mentioned. It should be noted that the use of term “agenda” here is purely descriptive. There is no pejorative implication that a news organization “has an agenda” that it relentlessly pursues as a premeditated goal. The media agenda presented to the public results from countless day-to-day decisions by many different journalists and their supervisors about the news of the moment.

The public agenda – the focus of public attention – is commonly assessed by public opinion polls that ask some variation of the long-standing Gallup Poll question, “What is the most important problem facing this country today?”.

Comparisons of the media agenda in the weeks preceding these opinion polls measuring the public agenda yield significant evidence of the public service and agenda-setting role of the mass media. When Chapel Hill, North Carolina, voters were asked to name the most important issues of the day – in the very first empirical study of this agenda-setting influence – their responses closely reflected the pattern of news coverage during the previous month in the mix of newspapers, network television news, and news magazines available to them. Since that initial study during the 1968 U.S. presidential election, more than 300 hundred published studies worldwide have documented this influence of the news media.

It is not different in developing countries as well as in Nigeria. The influence of the mass media in moulding the opinion of the Nigerian public and creating positive reaction towards public service cannot be quantified. The mass media in Nigeria from the onset has been used for this purpose. The first newspaper that was established by a Presbyterian (Iwe Iroyin Fun Awon Egba ati Yoruba) in 1859 was set up for this cause. It was meant for the emancipation of the inhabitants of the environs where it was established both physically from the shackles of slavery and psychologically from ignorance. As time went by, this function included political awareness as well as the bid to inspire the people to collectively fight for a right for self-governance.  It became the major power house of political propaganda and electioneering campaigns. It was used as the ‘’mighty gun’’ that was used to fight for the emancipation of Nigeria from slavery and then from the colonial masters. The first political party that was formed (Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP)) by Herbert Macaulay in 1922 was not formed without the help of a press. This pattern followed until Nigeria got her independence. Politician during the era all operated or were linked to a press. For example, Chief ObafemiAwolowo had the Nigerian Tribune that was powering his political party- Action Group in the west. The east did not overlooked this pattern as Dr. NnamdiAzikiwe also used the the West Afrrican Pilot to pilot the objectives of his political party, National Congress of Nigerians and Cameroon, NCNC. Did the north follow suit? Of course, they did. Sir Ahmadu Bello had the GaskiyaTafi Kwabo which was, at the time, informing the northerners of the objectives of the Nigeria People Congress, NPC. (Obaze and Ojo 2011).


The influence of the mass media in moulding public opinion and public service cannot be over-emphasized. The role of mass media in changing the attitudes of the public towards government and government policies has been demonstrated on countless occasions in the sense that it transfers messages that encourages societal development and integration to the public.

Sometimes, most politicians use the mass media as a medium to trade falsehood and propaganda (especially government owned media) to the electorates.

Due to the centralization of media organization in the urban areas in Nigeria, rural dwellers are sometimes left in the hand of the opinion leaders who sometimes use propaganda techniques to lure  the rural dwellers into acting blindly in times of crucial decision making.  


This study is generally aimed at finding out how the mass media in a developing country moulds and shapes the opinion of the public and influences public service. Specifically, the study hopes to:

Find out the quality of reportage given to certain specific development communication in some Nigerian mass meow they mould the public’s opinion.

Determine the frequency of coverage given to some of the developmental events in the Nigerian mass media and h.

Determine the methods these newspapers used in gathering information in writing these reports. Determine the direction/slant or tone of these reports

Find out the level of prominence given to specific political conflicts in some Nigerian newspapers.

Determine the story types in which the reporting of these specific events appeared most often.



The following research questions have been designed to guide the study:

  1. To what extent does mass media influence public opinion and public service in Nigeria?
  2. Which part of the society has been influenced so far by the mass media?
  3. With what programs or how does the Nigerian mass media carry out its public agenda molding?
  4. What factors hinders the mass media from carrying out its agenda-setting functions in Nigeria.


In any democratic society, the significant role of the mass media industry in influencing the actions of the masses cannot be overstated. People look up to the mass media for direction and they see it as a medium to determine what is right and what should be seen as wrong. In the light of the above, the study of the influence of the mass media on public opinion and public service becomes imperative for every educated and uneducated public in a society.

The mass media helps to mirror socio-cultural activities of the society and how these activities affects the society in areas such as economic, political, education, cultural and social values. It encourages and helps the public to understand the government and how to put them on check.

This study will therefore be important to government, civil servants, journalists, editors, publishers, research students and also those that will like to carry further research on this field, thereby creating the desired knowledge and understanding of the effectiveness of the film industry.


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