Home History of Nigerian mass media ANTECEDENTS OF MODERN MASS MEDIA


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The mass media do not exist or operate in isolation. The modern mass media evolved from the content of the public traditional communication. These traditional media of public communication may be conveniently classified into two groups: the oral communication or informal transference media and the organised common or formal transference media. This unit will also examine mass media symbiosis and adjuncts.


At the end of this unit, you should be able to:

  1. discuss contents of the traditional media of public communication • explain informal transference media 
  2.  describe adjuncts of the mass media 
  3.  define mass media symbiosis. 


3.1 Informal Transference Media

The media in this group operate through informal contact between individuals and persons and essentially do not go beyond the circulation or dissemination of rumours and “un official” information.

In this category, the primary example is family – visit. The African social organisation characterised by a strong sense of kingship, community and neighbourliness naturally increase the scope of news circulated in this way. It was common then, as now, to visit relations and friends in their homes, eat from the same pot and exchange the latest information. On the contrary, it was manifested in a much wider sphere, in, for example, the attitude to relatives in other communities and the relatively harmonious relationship between people in one community and those in another.

The extent of those activities and connections give some idea of the scope of news circulation in indigenous society by informal contact. Exchange of information was also promoted by means of the organised and spontaneous gatherings, which are fairly frequent in the African society.

Death and burial ceremonies always attracted large congregations, which often included participants from neighbouring or distant places. These ceremonies characterised by weeping and wailing had intervening periods where gossiping, storytelling and general exchange of information took place.

Dissemination of unofficial information also characterised village festivals. Marriage and circumcision feasts, public meetings, and trials, propitiatory assemblies, open quarrels and disputes and several other aggregator events, which characterised the African way of life, are also avenues for informal information. In this respect, mention must be made of the popular moonlight gatherings, which were dominated by folktales.

Although anyone could be a folk teller, some were highly proficient in the art. They knew what was interesting to an audience and had an eye for the exciting and the sensational. They could be seen as perhaps the prototypes of the modern news reporter.

Another prototype of the modern reporter was the masquerade. Although it was essentially an impersonation of ancestors, the masquerade in some societies, like the Igbo, emerged in the night to gossip and expose scandals like a modern gossip columnist.

In addition, most communities had markets, which were not only centres of trade but also principle means or most convenient forum to meet friends, and kinsmen exchange news and gossip. Some markets were also the terminal points of one area with one another and with foreign lands and civilisations. The caravans, which plied these routes, helped to distribute information. They gathered and “relayed” news as they passed from place to place, communicating with fellow traders and collecting information on resources and prospects of trade.

3.2 Formal Transference Media

This second category is concerned with more systematised dissemination of information not between persons but between the government “and the people.” The tools employed were recognised official and recognizable sounds, signs and symbols. In the old Oyo empire, for example, state messengers and intelligence officers (Illari) carried information between the capital and the outlaying provinces.
However, the most common of these indigenous officials was the town crier or bellman. Part of his functions include announcing the “promulgation” of laws and regulations, meetings, arrangements for communal work and generally –“official” information in the community. The town crier is an indispensable part of village society. He is often seen in the autochthonous (aborigine) parts of urban centers where there is an established indigenous monarchy.

In addition, some news dissemination was achieved through the booming of gun, to announce deaths of village personalities and to warn of imminent danger. Most extensively used were the drums. When some of these drums are expertly sounded, they are capable of conveying specific meaning. In other words, they talk. The Igbo, for instance, have the Ekwe or Ikoro, which were permanently set in village squares and shrines. Other state drums are Yoruba Gbedu, the Isekiri Oji, the Edo Okha, which were used to summon special meetings, proclaim the arrival to and the departure of VIPs from the palaces. They are equally used to announce serious acts of sacrilege and disaster, alert the community against invasion and in war and advertise the presence of warriors.

3.3 Adjuncts of the Mass Media

The word adjunct originated from a Latin word “adjungere” which means “to join”. Therefore, adjunct simply means “something joined” (Uyo 1987:36). In other words, adjunct means some additions to the main thing being discussed. 

Accordingly, adjuncts can equally be called “auxiliaries (DeFleur and Dennis) “indirect media” (Whitney), “paramedia agencies” (Murphy) as recorded by Uyo.
Going by Defleur and Dennis’ views, auxiliaries are “outside organisations from which the mass media get important help.” Basically, these windows link the media to the outside events. In Whitney’s words:“… indirect media are service media. They have no audience of their own in the sense that the mass media do.”

The adjuncts of mass media have a symbiotic relationship with each other. This is because the media organization depends on them for additional information on news, entertainment, features, etc. In return, the adjuncts are sustained from the money that they get from the media organizations they service.

There are eight major adjuncts of the mass media and some less obvious ones. The major adjuncts of the mass media include the following:
1. The news agencies or wire service: These are organisations that gather and process news, which they disseminate to their various subscribers such as the mass media, other news agencies, public
institutions and commercial enterprises (Uyo: p 38). There are some privately owned agencies while others are government owned. The news agencies operate locally, nationally, regionally,continentally and internationally. The major international news agencies are:

i. Agence France Presse (AFP) in Paris, France
ii. Associated Press (AP) in New York, USA
iii. Reuters in London, UK 

iv. The Soviet Telegraph Agency (TASS) in Moscow, USSR v. United Press, International (UPI) New York, USA

These first five are usually called the “BIG FIVE”.
Others include Hinshua and the New China News Agency (NCNA). There is also the Non-Aligned News Pool and the Inter-Press Service (IPS). In Africa, we have the Pan-African News Agency (PANA), which has its headquarters in Dakar, Senegal. It was specifically established on the 25th of May, 1983 for the Organization of African Unity (OAU). The essence was to rectify the one-sided flow or reportage of news by the Western World, especially in respect of news coverage about the developing nations, which they regard as the Third World Nations.

The developing nations in reaction to this circumstance have thus, established national and regional news agencies, which will serve some nearby nations. Examples of these agencies include:
a) Middle East News Agency(MENA)- Regional
b) News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)- National
c) The Press Trust of India. Though a national newspaper, it competes with international news agencies.
2. Syndicates: They are better known as Press Syndicates and they are very popular in American. Their function is to package and supply feature and interpretative materials for the print media in
particular. Similarly, they promote and sell columns, analyses, comic strips, cartoons and other features to individual newspapers, magazines and other media units (Hiebert et al in Uyo 1987:39).Syndicates also supply media organisations with entertainment programmes.

3) Advertising Agencies: These are popularly called “ad agencies.” Though “advertising” is an aspect of mass communication, however, it is the intermediary between them and the media organisation. Essentially, ad agencies specialise in promoting products. Accordingly, Gamble defines advertising agency as:
i. an independent business organization comprised of creative
ii. and business people, who develop, prepare and place
iii. advertisement in advertising media; sellers seeking to find
iv. customers for their goods and services

The ad agencies liaise with, and get approval of the advertising departments of the media organisations to place ads in their organisations. In fact, majority of ads placed in the newspapers, magazines, radio and television are placed by the advertising agencies that are in turn paid for these jobs. The money they get is known as Agency Commission.

4. Public Relations and Publicity Firms: These firms specifically concern themselves with the “total communication problems” of  their clients. Their major function is to counsel their clients on
the outcome of their actions and advice them on how to achieve public acceptance. The clients of PR firms include: celebrities, politicians, religious groups, political parties, educational institutions, the military, business organisations and the government. Most profit and non-profit organisations establish PR/Information departments to handle their image problems as well as creating favorable image for them.

5. Government Information Ministries/Services/Agencies: A majority of governments entrust their PR and publicity into the hands of a special ministry or agency created to take care of governments’ image. This varies with countries. In the developing countries, the ministries of information are also
responsible for the print and electronic media, especially those owned by the government.
Other adjuncts of mass media include:

• Research and Rating Organisation or Services
• Programme and Film Production Companies
• Public Opinion Polling Agencies Organisation

All these equally perform the basic functions of adjuncts of mass media.That is, providing additional information for the media organisations to work with.


Briefly discuss what you understand by the adjuncts of mass media.
N/B: The adjuncts of mass media was prepared by Onwubere, Chidinma and included to make the unit adequate and comprehensive.

3.4 Mass Media Symbiosis

This term is borrowed from biology where organisms are found to engage in symbiotic relationships. In biology, symbiosis is seen as the association of two organisms for mutual benefit.
As analogy, in mass media, different media demonstrate what we might call a form of symbiosis. For example, in the television and film, producers work for both media.

Films that originally played in the theatre found their way to television, video cassettes. Film actors and actresses make television shows; most newspaper editions carry magazine inserts. Movie scripts are transformed into novels and vice versa. Some magazines are distributed on video tapes or newspaper copies, and so on.


We have taken time to discuss what could be termed “mass media helpers”. The mass media content, both the formal and informal communication are sustained by human and physical factors. This also

reveals that the mass media are made up of systems that enhance information dissemination.


In this unit, we have dealt with the traditional media of public communication by looking at the formal transference media the informal transference media, adjuncts of the mass media and media symbiosis.


1. Mention the two types of traditional media of public communication.
2. List the components of the informal transference media


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