Audiences Perceptions of Informative Programs at Jimma Fana FM 98.1 in Jimma, Ethiopia.

AuthorJemal, Netsanet


Media play a powerful role in people's lives, and they play roles in the formulation of images and beliefs of people (Galtung and Ruge, 1965). Mughees (1997) calls the social and political images created by media as "pictures in our heads" as media images enable people to have frequent and meaningful interactions with society (Mughees, 1991).

All types of media function as socialization agents, and different media individually and collectively work to shape perceptions and communication directly or indirectly (Croteau, Hoynes and Milan, 2009). However, among the different types of media, scholars spent time researching the impact that television has had on personal and societal perceptions which is largely due to the rapid growth of the television industry and its pervasiveness in everyday life (Croteau, Hoynes and Milan, 2009).

Meanwhile, Jimma Fana FM 98.1 radio station covers all districts found in (Jimma zone) Illu Ababora, East Wellega, and Yem in the special district of the South Nations Nationalities People Regional State, a partial Dawuro zone, Hadiya zone and Kafa zone. The radio station transmits news, entertainment, informative and advertisement programs for the community by addressing social, economic and political issues 48 hours per week in Afan Oromo and Amharic languages consisting of approximately 5.5 to 6 million people. Form the foregoing discussion an understand is realized that Fana FM 98.1 radio station has effects on its audiences, although it appears that there is a dearth of studies conducted on impacts and influences of the radio station on its audiences in Jimma town, thus, this presentation was based on this general background.

Statement of the Problem

People form perceptions according to what the media presents to them (McCombs & Maxwell, 2005; Windahl & Signitzer, 1992) though different factors such as past experience, cultural expectations, motivations, moods, needs and attitudes that influence their perceptions (Severin,2001). A number of studies have been conducted in other countries related to media perceptions. For instance, Matthes (2011) conducted a study on the affective underpinnings of hostile media perceptions, focusing on exploring the distinct effects of affective and cognitive involvement in Austria. The Matthes study proves that affective involvement can explain the hostile media effect over and beyond cognitive involvement. Amin (2010) on his part conducted a study on journalists' perceptions and attitudes towards Arab media in Egypt. The study showed that press freedom in Arab countries and the performance of Arab journalists are still threatened by a censorial political culture; one that develops in an environment usually dominated by a single political party. D'Angelo and Lombard (2014) further conducted a study on the effects of press frames in political campaign news on media perceptions in the United States. The study revealed that media perceptions were differently activated by virtue of exposure to the press frames.

In the context of Ethiopia, it seems that there is a paucity of empirical studies which have been conducted to assess public perceptions and audiences' reactions on media. To mention a few studies, Milkesa Chimdesa (2010) conducted a case study on the role of Zami 90.7 and Sheger 102.1 FM radios for social development in Addis Ababa. The study revealed that these private FM radios have programs that are entertaining, educative, socially responsive and commercially profitable. The research further indicated that although these FM radio stations give much emphasis on educative and socially relevant issues, there is a lack of studies which have been conducted on audiences' perceptions of other FM radio stations in the country. Biset Ayalew (2014) also conducted a study on media preferences and perceptions of instructors at Bahir Dar University, Ethiopia. The study reveals that Bahir Dar University instructors consume news on a daily basis. With regard to media usage, the study shows that television stations, radio stations, and websites were the most chosen information source of respondents. Among television programs, foreign television news programs were mostly viewed by respondents, and Ethiopian television has taken the lead compared to other national television programs.

Nevertheless, to the knowledge of the present researchers, there is no study which has been conducted on the informative programs transmitted from Fana FM 98.1 radio station in Jimma town, albeit the organization itself conducted two shallow surveys using an Amharic questionnaire. Here, it is worth mentioning that Jimma Fana FM 98.1 radio station transmits programs in Afan Oromo and Amharic languages to its audiences. However, no attempt has been made to study the perceptions of Afan Oromo and Amharic language speakers on the mass media in Jimma town. As a result, currently it is not known whether Jimma Fana FM 98.1 radio station is bringing about changes to the community of Jimma town or not. Therefore, this research tried to fill this research gap by studying the perceptions of audiences towards informative programs transmitted from Jimma Fana FM 98.1 radio station in Jimma town.

Objectives and Significance of the Study: General and Specific

The main objective of this study is to assess the audiences' perception towards informative programs broadcasted from Jimma Fana FM 98.1 radio station. And the specific research questions of this study attempt to answer: (1) how do the audiences evaluate the effectiveness of the contents, styles, languages and time of Jimma Fana FM station; (2) to what extent do they examine whether the informative programs transmitted from the radio station are closely related with the livelihood of the majority of the audiences; and (3) how do the audiences evaluate the effectiveness of informative programs broadcasted from Jimma Fana FM 98.1 radio station in general?

In regards to the significance of this study, the researchers believed that the study will provide important information about the perceptions of audiences to the management of the radio station so that they improve the performance of the five informative programs based on the audiences' preferences.

This, in turn, may enable the audiences of Jimma Fana FM 98.1 radio station to be more beneficiaries of the five informative programs transmitted from the radio station. Furthermore, it was hoped that the study may provide important information for policy makers who strive to bringing social changes and development through mass media in Ethiopia. Moreover, it was believed that the study will provide insights for future researchers who want to study the issue in more detail from different perspectives.

There are different programs which are broadcasted from Jimma Fana FM 98.1 radio station that is found in Jimma town, which is located in southwest Ethiopia at a distance of 335 kilometers from Addis Ababa. But this study assessed audiences' perceptions towards only the five informative programs viz. the Amharic and Afan Oromo news programs, Hello Fana program, Yebeteseb Maed program, Tibeb Fana program and the Gaddisa Jimata program broadcasted from the radio station in 2016 academic year. As it is stated in the background section above, Jimma Fana FM 98.1 radio station covers a wide area, and it was difficult to study the perceptions of all audiences of the radio station. Therefore, the study is delimited to studying the perceptions of audiences only in Jimma town. With regard to the limitation of the study, the study was conducted only on the five informative programs broadcasted from Jimma Fana FM 98.1 radio station in Jimma town. Thus, the findings of the study may not be generalized to all other radio programs broadcasted from radio stations which are found in Ethiopia and in other countries.

Literature Review, Media Functions and Perception Definition

Media include newspapers, magazines, television, radio and the internet. Media can be classified as print media (such as newspapers, magazines, books and billboards) electronic media (like radio, television and computers) and photographic media (such as still photography, film and video) (Berger, 2014). Business organizations use media for communicating information to the public because they know that media have huge impacts on audiences beliefs and perceptions. Media provide basic knowledge and information to the public regarding different national and international issues. Audiences make their informed judgments and perceptions based on the information provided by media. Media also play a role in socializing children. They also have the power of turning the world in to a 'globalized village' for audiences; and the media is mainly successful in telling us what to think about, and it sets the agenda for our decision making and influence our social and political perspectives (McCombs and Maxwell, 2005).

Societies are affected by the function of media, but this could vary from individual to individual. According to McCombs and Maxwell (2005), media are 'social institutions', hence, an organization that is critical to the socialization process that provides a support system for individuals as they struggle to become members of a larger social network.

McCombs and Maxwell (2002) further state that "new media have the power of setting a nation's agenda and focusing the public attention on a few key public issues." This shows that new media have the powers of guiding public opinion towards specific direction which can change the perception of people in some specific way so they begin to think or perceive in a new way.

The term perception has different meanings. A common element in most meanings is that perception involves the analysis of sensory information. When cognitive psychologists talk about perception, they usually refer to the basic cognitive processes that analyze information from the senses, and...

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