1.0 Background to the study
Incontrovertibly, the role and relevance of communication across the globe, cuts across every facet of the human life and so entangled to the progress of society that in its absence, confusion reigns. In tandem with the above, it is worth noting that the core essence of communication is to establish commonness of thought or understanding among parties, via one-way relay or interactive exchange of information. As averred by Castells (2007), throughout the tangle of human history, communication and information have been fundamental sources of power and counter-power of domination and social change.
In individual daily lives, be it at home, academic institutions, work place, social gatherings, inter-state relations and many others; communication and information have indeed spared our world the fate that befell the ‘Tower of Babel’. More so, the channels of communication as vehicles by which thoughts are conveyed from sender to receiver which by large shapes a message makes information, communication and the media, a three in one trilogy, inextricably crucial for effective communication.
As observed by Lang and Lang (2009), without a mass audience, there could be no public opinion other than in town squares and cafes, plus sporadic input from crowds limited to the range within which a human voice can be heard. Be that as it may, the evolution of mass media has rather revolutionised the ways and means of reaching a mass audience unrestrained by time and space. The advent of newspapers, radios, televisions and other print publications gained much prominence in the post-world war era. This was essentially precipitated by the ideological contestation between the U.S.A and the Soviet Union, proxy wars, civil rights protests, and activities of nationalist movements in the decolonisation efforts; as well as the whispers of a potential outbreak of a World War III. These major events kept people glued to the media in order to keep abreast of the unpredictable times of that era.
Today however, in light of technological advancement, increasing economic interdependencies, rising world population and its corresponding upsurge in demand; globalisation happens to render mass communication vital in the information driven age, especially in areas of advertising and journalism with respect to online media. Indubitably, the popularisation of modern day laptop computers coupled with the commercialisation of the internet in the mid-nineties (90s) immensely contributed to the embrace of online media as either a substitute or a complement to traditional media (Kayani et al., 2010; Rajendran & Thesinghraja, 2014).
Subsequent related developments in areas of computer programs and software; webpages and websites, proliferation of mobile devices and complementary social media applications have somewhat led to exponential growth in patronage of online media. According to the Global Web Index, internet users now spend a daily average of 6.09 hours on online media, up from 5.5 hours in 2012 (Mander, 2014). The report further indicates a huge variation between countries in terms of the total daily time spent on both online and traditional media.
1.2 Statement of the problem
Recently, professionals in the print, radio and television as constituents of traditional media have begun to question the future of their industries amidst the expansion and penetration of online media websites, including social media applications (Ahlers, 2006). As corroborated by Kaul (2013) the online media revolution has significantly altered the way the public obtains its news and information, and has deprived the mass media of its traditional monopoly. Moreover, such a technological revolution seems to compound the competitive intensity that already characterise the saturated market of the traditional media. This is made evident by the published list of authorised radio and television stations in the country. The list puts the number of radio broadcasting stations operating in the country at 354 and 51 television broadcasting stations as at the end of December, 2016; thereby contributing to media and target audience fragmentation (National Communication Authority, 2017).
As posited by Agboola (2014) the world no longer waits for the traditional media to break the news, but relies more, these days, on the new media to provide on-the-go, real-time information on the latest happenings around the world.
In view of the advent of New Media, media practitioners and scholars alike have accelerated their quest to explore and identify new means of either augmenting online media tools in their operations or entirely abandoning the relatively expensive traditional media. It is therefore not surprising that most traditional media outlets are joining the online media bandwagon to make their presence felt by the increasingly sophisticated audience/consumer.
Today, the likes of Metro TV, TV 3, and Joy FM among other local media outlets, can be seen battling over the minds of people exposed to information overload, on global online platforms, open to all and sundry. It is however worth noting, that the very strengths of online media bears marks of its potential weakness. With online media, people are at liberty to create their own news as well as get the other side of the story from other online sources. According to Brooks (as cited in Rajendran & Thesinghraja, 2014) anyone with a blog can be a reporter, anyone with a cell phone can be a videographer and anyone on Facebook, Twitter or a thousand other platforms can be a news editor.
Given that competition on the online media rest not only on relay of information but also the speed at which information is relayed; some elements in the mainstream media become susceptible to sharing news stories which have no factual basis, hence putting their credibility at stake. The study therefore seeks to unravel and examine students’ perception of the patronage of both online and traditional media and by such endeavour to establish the motives for the patronage of one media over the other whiles putting into context the perceived credibility they hold in the minds of students.
1.3 Research objectives
The cardinal objective of this study is to ascertain and examine students’ perception of online media patronage over traditional media. This principal objective will be attained through the following specific objectives:
1. To ascertain the extent of students’ patronage of online media vis-à-vis traditional media.
2. To explore the rationale for students’ patronage of one media system over the other.
3. To assess students’ perception of the credibility of online media vis-à-vis traditional media.
1.3 Research questions
In view of the research objectives outlined above, this study seeks to find answers to the following sub-queries:
1. To what extent do students utilise online media vis-à-vis traditional media?
2. What factors influence students’ patronage of one media system over the other?
3. How credible do students perceive online media vis-à-vis traditional media?
1.4 Significance of the study
The significance of the study stems from the fact that whiles there have been several attempts to encourage players in the broadcast media to improve upon service quality; there has been little if not a non-existent empirical information on the perception of Ghanaians regarding the extent of, and rationale for online media patronage over traditional media in light of their credibility status. This study, in essence, will bring to the fore the views of Ghanaians on issues germane to media operations in the country.
To government agencies and regulatory bodies such as the National Media Commission and the National Communications Authority, the findings of this study will make accessible vital insights and provide a comprehensive understanding for the patronage of one media system over the other and its implications on media practice in general. This will place the aforementioned bodies in a better position to by some extent monitor the broadcast media sector and where necessary set appropriate rules and regulations to ensure some level of decorum in media reportage whilst providing an enabling environment for the media to compete favourably.
Beyond serving as a point of reference, the conclusions and recommendations of this study will revive the unending quest of scholars, researchers and students to explore the future of mass communication and the media.
1.5 Scope of the study
In terms of scope, the study will be confined to the overarching aim of the research project whilst taking into cognisance the relationship between communication and the media, the theories of media effects, and other areas relevant to the subject matter. The study will focus on the response to be obtained from the students of Central University, Miotso campus, in direct relation to the outlined objectives.
1.6 Limitations of the study
As underscored in the scope of study, the research was confined to the students of Central University, thereby narrowing the scope of the study. The study of this single institution not only affected the generalisation of the findings but also limited the statistical power of the research. The study was also be limited by constraints of time and access to students who were too busy to respond to the questionnaires as they attended to their academic obligations on campus. Then again, the exclusion of enterprises, advertising agencies and media outlets due to finance and time constraints limited the comprehensiveness of the findings of this study.
1.7 Organisation of the study
The study will comprise five (5) chapters, which will be organized in the following order:
Chapter 1 – introduction. As an introductory chapter, this section provided a brief background on the concept of communication, the relevance of the media, and emergence of online media in
view of traditional media and identified the research problem. Chapter I explained the aims and objectives; research questions; significance of study; scope and limitations of the study.
Chapter 2 – theoretical framework and literature review. Chapter II provided the state of knowledge on online media patronage over traditional media with the research problem in mind. It aimed at ascertaining the extent of the problem identified in chapter one including the identification and narrowing of the research questions.
Chapter 3 – research methodology. Chapter III presented the analytic framework of the study. Based on the research problem, theoretical and methodological constructs were devised to address the research problem. The methodological strategy employed in the study was then be introduced and justified. Also, the processes of data collection and their administration was presented in this chapter.
Chapter 4 – findings. Chapter IV presented the techniques for analysing the data collected. Chapter IV was mainly concerned with the presentation of the findings of the study.
Chapter 5 – discussion on findings and recommendations. Chapter V summarized the study. Significant findings under each research question was identified and discussed. The chapter end with suggestions for further studies and conclusion.
This chapter provide a brief background on students’ perception of online media patronage over traditional media. It also entails the research objectives, research questions, significance of the study as well as the organisation of the entire work. The subsequent chapter delved into the review of related literature on the subject matter in an attempt to establish a better understanding and appreciation of the study.