Monday, June 27, 2011

How to use investigative journalism to enhance advertising reporting, by stakeholder


Investigative journalism is not mainly about unearthing the misdeeds and corrupt practices of public officer holders, but also helping to build the country as a good brand. The Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON), in fact has urged journalists in the country to always employ the power of investigative journalism to lift the coverage of marketing communication.

The regulatory body anchored its admonition in the strength of social responsibility functions that advertising is mandated to render in the society.

And unless journalists understand these statutory mandates, especially the role of the Advertising Standard Panel (ASP), their reportage and coverage of advertising environment may remain shallow.

At a one-day forum organised by the APCON for journalists covering advertising and marketing issues, participants were urged to always abide by the tenets of the profession with emphasis on the need for them to always balance their reports.

The forum frowned at the exposure of non-vetted and unapproved advertisements in the media because any misinformation arising from such unlawful exposures may be difficult to retract where damage had been done.

In his welcome address, the chairman of APCON, Lolu Akinwunmi, explained why the special forum was initiated to help journalists in their practice.

He said, “Over the last few years, you have succeeded in creating a distinct identity for yourselves by specifically reporting on developments within the marketing communication segment of our economy. If today advertising and allied disciplines attract unprecedented attention, it is because of the commitment journalists and stakeholders in the industry over the last couple of years, and for this, APCON is appreciative. The more attention you draw to the profession, the more you inform and educate ordinary Nigerians and our stakeholders, the easier it will be for a body such as APCON to fulfill government expectation in the quality of the message that goes out daily to the consumer”.

Knowing that communication involves two groups: the sender and the receiver, APCON’s task at the forum was to ensure that the sender sends the right and correct message to the receiver.

“We are to ensure that messages are not misleading,” he added. “This regulatory role makes us offer public service by ensuring that all upholds the basic principles of advertising. The implication is not only that ads must be legal, decent, honest, truthful and mindful of Nigeria’s culture and not impair public confidence in advertising, but those who practice it must do so in strict observance of its ethics and statutory provision, sincerely promoting international goodwill and cementing world comradeship”.

Hammering on the unfair influx of charlatans who see nothing beyond the quick money they can make in this economy, he said the task was to jointly insist on true partners from any part of the world, and not those who want to come in and supplant people.

In his words, “Journalists have a big responsibility as our economy continues to grow. Your group is especially trained and empowered to support the communication industry, reporting truth and discouraging the publication or dissemination of falsehood. Again in the words of Williams, I believe that the brand of journalism, which succeeds best, and best deserves success fears God and honours man, is stoutly independent, unmoved by pride of opinion or greed of power, constructive, tolerant but never careless: self controlled, patient, always respectful of its reader but always unafraid, is quickly indignant at injustice, is unswayed by the appeal of privilege or the clamor of the mob; seeks to give every man a chance, and as far as law and honest wage and recognition of brotherhood can make it so, an equal chance; is profoundly patriotic while sincerely promoting international goodwill and cementing world comradeship; is journalism of humanity, of and for today’s world.”

Admonishing journalists on the practice of Advertising Standard Panel (ASP), it’s chairman Mr. Ade Akinde, said all adverts, no matter their kinds, are meant to be vetted by the panel.

Any that is not vetted, if found wanting, incurs the wrath of the countries involved. He said, “Our line are open to complaints and we act immediately if any case is reported. But if they are critical, cases we refer them to the APIP that takes in depth look into the issue and proffer solution. There is the need for APCON to publish the names of registered members who are found liable by the APDC for the violation of the code and for professional misconduct”.

According to the chairman of APDC and president of AAAN, Funmi Onabolu, an enabling legal instrument Act 55 of 1988 was empowered to adjudicate infringements related to the advertising profession in case of unprofessional conduct, infamous conduct in a professional respect and fraudulent registration. It is made up of AAAN, ADVAN, MIPAN, OAAN, BON and NAPAN.

He stated that many stakeholders within the industry had come before this arm to answer cases that is to the best interest of the practitioner.

“It is charged with the duty of considering and determining any case referred to it by the APIP, a statutory panel established by the provision of the Act. It observes rules of evidence and procedure and has equivalent status of a High Court. It is thus apparent that disciplinary proceedings and quasi–criminal matters and the principles of fair hearing bind the committee”.

He added, “If a respondent who appears before the APDC is found guilty, he will probably face any or some discipline ranging from caution, fine, reprimand and acquittal. In the event of imposition of a penalty, any appeal arising from there shall go to the Court of Appeal. The law further avers that ‘no proceedings before the disciplinary committee shall be set aside by reason only of informality in those proceedings, which did not embarrass or prejudice the appellant. This is to say, when a verdict has been pronounced, it is binding on the respondent; should the respondent be aggrieved his only option is to file an appeal within specific time to the Court of Appeal”.

The registrar, Alhaji Bello Kankafofi, also stated that the secretariat was working with the police and LASSMA to carry out sanctions.

In a communiqué at the one-day deliberation, the forum noted that media houses should demand for the Advertising Standards Panel’s Certificate of Approval from advertisers or advertising agencies before the exposure of advertisement materials. Where such certificate is not produced, the media house shall reject the advertisement and write APCON/ASP in confidence to enhance effective monitoring should another media house publish, transmit or display the rejected advertisement without ASP approval.

The forum noted that the level of compliance with the Nigeria Code of Advertising Practice and Sales Promotion has improved considerably, but APCON should double its efforts in this regard. Participants commended the ASP for improving the time of vetting process in respect to the provision of 12 hours and 48 hours of accelerated vetting respectively to meet the demands of urgent advertisement campaigns. It further stated that APCON should improve and publicise the benefits of being registered member of APCON in order to enhance membership drive; journalist should be acquainted with the process of vetting of advertisements, and sanctions of violators to enhance their understanding of the functions of the ASP, APIP and APDC.

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