Full Project – Audience perception of media messages in managing covid-19 lockdown among Warri residents

Full Project – Audience perception of media messages in managing covid-19 lockdown among Warri residents

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1.1 Background to the Study

Recently, the coronavirus discovered in 2019 (COVID-19) expanded across the globe. In order to respond to this pandemic, many countries are combining suppression and mitigation activities aimed at delaying major surges of patients and leveling the demand for hospital beds, while protecting the most vulnerable from infection. It is crucial for the public’s health that information about these measures is accurately and quickly disseminated throughout the population, especially when considering that threat perceptions of novel viral infections are higher compared to perceptions of common threats like influenza. The global scale of the current crisis and the introduction of measures such as social distancing, leads to increased anxiety and stress, which in turn have a detrimental impact on the public’s physical and mental health over time, as evidenced by longitudinal studies following other health or societal crises. Furthermore, in addition to disseminating and contextualizing information regarding public health measures, it is also important to stimulate public support for these measures, especially given their fundamental impact on daily life. A lack of support for such measures may result in the public not abiding by certain guidelines, which may in turn endanger public health.

Currently, traditional news media (e.g., television, radio, newspapers) and social media are the main platforms through which this dissemination of information takes place. In fact, traditional media are even believed to have experienced a “revival” during the COVID-19 pandemic, as most people “retrogressed back” to these “established” media environments that provide them with “trustworthy” and verified information or news updates. The public’s reliance on news media to convey accurate information is especially important during this crisis, with a large share of the population working from or locked down in their homes. Two elements of media exposure have been found to affect psychological and physical responses to a community-wide traumatic event: the amount of media exposure, and its content.

Concerning the total amount of exposure to the media: Garfin et al (2021), used the Boston Marathon bombings as an example, where they found a “strong positive association between the total amount of exposure to bombing-related media coverage and acute stress symptoms. People who reported the highest media exposure reported higher acute stress than people who were directly exposed to the bombings”. These associations accumulate over time: as threats continue to emerge, repeated high levels of media exposure to these kinds of events create a cycle of distress.

As for the context of this coverage: studies found that overly sensationalized and tabloidized coverage of traumatic events (e.g., graphic imagery) is related to higher stress levels among the public, even after controlling for the overall amount of media exposure. In that regard, it is important to note that not all media types frame stories the same way. An international comparison of media systems showed that commercial media present significantly more sensationalized news than public media. Recent Belgian data corroborate this trend. Jacobs et al. found that Belgian public news media are significantly less sensationalist and “tabloidized” than commercial news media in the context of contentious and crisis-related topics (such as immigration) and that the audiences of both news types differ in their attitudes toward the covered topics. In this context, it has been assumed that outcomes of mediated communication are not uniform across all individuals. Instead, media effects tend to vary across different media channels (i.e., “dual effects hypothesis”), and exposure to a given news medium means exposure to multiple messages that may be incongruent and exert therefore conflicting and contradictory influences within an individual (i.e., “double bind hypothesis”).

In the current longitudinal study, we aim to test how public fears and attitudes toward public health measures evolve over time during the COVID-19 pandemic (research question (RQ)1) while accounting for one’s exposure to different news media channels (public vs. commercial) in Flanders (Belgium) (RQ2). Additionally, we aim to examine how later-stage self-reported health behaviors (e.g., social distancing) are associated with (a) evolutions in public perceptions and attitudes regarding the disease and (b) respondents’ accumulative exposure to different news media channels (RQ3).

1.2 Statement of Research Problem

In the COVID-19 crisis food security, public health, and employment and labour issues, in particular workers’ health and safety converge. Adhering to workplace safety and health practices and ensuring access to decent work and the protection of labour rights in all industries will be crucial in addressing the human dimension of the crisis.

Immediate and purposeful action to save lives and livelihoods should include extending social protection towards universal health coverage and income support for those most affected.

These include workers in the informal economy and in poorly protected and low-paid jobs, including youth, older workers, and migrants. Particular attention must be paid to the situation of women, who are over-represented in low-paid jobs and care roles. Different forms of support are key, including cash transfers, child allowances and healthy school meals, shelter and food relief initiatives, support for employment retention and recovery, and financial relief for businesses, including micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.

In designing and implementing such measures it is essential that governments work closely with employers and workers. Countries dealing with existing humanitarian crises or emergencies are particularly exposed to the effects of COVID-19. Responding swiftly to the pandemic, while ensuring that humanitarian and recovery assistance reaches those most in need, it is critical to ascertain audience perception of media reports or messages in managing the issue of Covid-19 in Nigeria with a focus of residents in Warri. In recent lime, most researchers pay little or no attention on diseases related issues, thus forms the uniqueness of this study.


1.3 Objectives of the Study

In wider perspective, this study is aimed at ascertaining audience perception of media messages in managing Covid-19 in Nigeria, though specifically the research seeks to:

  1. Determine audience perception of media messages on Covid-19.
  2. Ascertain the extent of audience perception of media messages on Covid-19.
  3. Examine the level of media messages on Covid-19 in the society.

1.4 Research Questions

  1. What are audience perceptions of media messages on Covid-19?
  2. To what extent is audience perception of media messages on Covid-19?
  3. What is the level of media message on Covid-19 in the society?

1.5 Significance of the Study

By reviewing the available literature, collecting and analyzing data and drawing recommendations from the findings, the study will be relevant to students as, it will enable students’ to know the extent to which subscription has impacted on students usage of social media plat forms. The findings from the study will widen the researcher’s scope of knowledge on the topic and findings and recommendations emerging from this study will of immerse benefits to the academic community. ‘It will expand the body of knowledge that has been done on similar topic and future researchers will make use of the finds for reference purpose. Little has been done on subscription and the usage of social media platforms in Nigerian Universities. This prompted the essence of this study.

1.6 Scope of the Study

The conceptual scope of this study focus on audience perception of media messages in managing Covid-19. Geographically, the study deals with Warri residents, Delta State. While the demographical scope deals with those educated individuals with the age of 18 and above, because it is presumed that they will be able to answer the question from this study.

1.7 Definition of Terms

Audience: These are the receivers of mass media messages. Simply put, audiences are aggregate of people living in a geographical location or area.

Messages: This can be seen as mass media contents. It is also known as information.

Media: This is the channels of mass communication messages, such as radio, television or newspaper (print media). Perception: This can be seen as people’s views or opinion about something or a phenomenon.

COVID-19: is a disease caused by a new strain of coronavirus. ‘CO’ stands for corona, ‘VI’ for virus, and ‘D’ for disease. Formerly, this disease was referred to as ‘2019 novel coronavirus’ or ‘2019-nCoV.’

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Full Project – Audience perception of media messages in managing covid-19 lockdown among Warri residents