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Nigeria’s Ban Of Foreign Models: Knocks For Times Of London On Misleading, Racist Story


“Nigeria becomes first country to ban white models in adverts”

Following the announcement of the ban on the use of foreign models and voice-over artists in any advertisement targeted or exposed in the Nigerian advertising space with effect from October 1, 2022, by the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria, ARCON, the media has been rife with stories on the development with platforms reporting on several angles on the implication of the ban.

But in a curious twist to reporting the story, The Times of London did a story with the screaming headline ‘Nigeria becomes first country to ban white models in adverts’. Understandably, that headline should draw anyone’s attention…and mine was sufficiently piqued. I rushed to subscribe to the medium to read their angle on the story written by its West Africa correspondent, Richard Assheton.

It reads: “White models and voiceovers in British accents were once ubiquitous in Nigerian adverts. Not anymore.

“As part of a policy of developing local talent”, the country’s advertising regulator has announced a complete ban on the use of foreign models and voiceover artists from October.

“The ban would cover all non-Nigerians and will put paid to the numbers of western, white actors who have appeared regularly on the country’s television adverts.

“Even before the ban was announced companies had to pay a 100,000-Naira (about $240) tariff for every foreign model used in an advert, making Nigeria one of the world’s most uncompromising environments on media representation,” the story partly reads.

Fact-check: Did ARCON Ban white models?

Because I was at the press conference organised by ARCON to unveil the new advertising act signed by President Mohammadu Buhari where the ban was announced by the ARCON Director-General, Dr. Olalekan Fadolapo, I know the report by Assheton and The Times of London is false, even racist and outrightly misleading. What was reported was completely off the mark, entirely different from what was announced. The aim for publishing such a story is certainly suspect, goes against the very tenets of journalism, and smacks of outright misinformation.

For context, ARCON did announce a ban on the use of foreign VOAs and models, revealing that the ban is in line with the Federal Government’s policy of developing local talent, inclusive economic growth, and the need to take necessary steps and actions aimed at growing the Nigerian advertising industry.

In a statement it shared with the media, ARCON noted that the ban is expected to stimulate and revitalise the Nigerian advertising and marketing communications industry which has suffered a massive setback due to the unbeneficial and untenable preference for the use of non-Nigerian models and voice-over artists on advertisement targeted at the Nigerian market.

Dr. Olalekan Fadolapo, Director General, Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria, ARCON.

“The risk of allowing domestic creativity to wither due to lack of support and patronage in favour of imported advertising services has negatively affected the small, medium, and macro enterprises in the chain of advertising and marketing communications production in Nigeria. Being the highest employer of labour in Nigeria, the SME sector deserves every support of the Federal Government for growth.”

It added that advertising is a practice that thrives on allied service providers that include models, artists, independent producers, production houses, photographers, etc., who are negatively impacted by the status quo. “This sector also employs labour and attracts talent; however, due to policies of some organisations, this sector is near collapse and has rendered some Nigerians jobless.

“This new ARCON policy is aimed at empowering the Nigerian youth who aspires to earn a decent living as a model and voice-over artist in Nigeria as well as create jobs, improve advertising service delivery with a positive multiplier effect on the Nigerian economy

“It is not taken for granted that some stakeholders may feel adversely affected by the ban. The overriding necessity to develop local inventiveness and to ensure that advertisements resonate with the society where they are targeted and exposed to, is important to ARCON and to the general public.

“Nigerian ambience, cultural heritage, language and mannerism are unique and reverberate in advertisements produced domestically. The relegation of Nigeria’s eminently qualified models and voice-over artists and the redundancy of the ancillary service providers in the industry due to imported advertising services becloud the advancement of creative potentials seeking a foothold to thrive.

“ARCON remains convinced that the policy to ban foreign models and foreign voice-over artists in the Nigerian advertising space is in the best interest of the advertising, advertisement and marketing communications industry and it remains resolute to ensure that the industry’s contribution to the economy of the nation is confidently restored,” the statement read.

Between Foreigners and Whites

The ‘issue at matter’ here is not about the ban on the use of models and VOAs by ARCON nor is it about the new act and the powers it confers on the regulatory body. The issue here is how a ban on foreigners is now reported to be a ban on ‘Whites’. Beyond syntax and semantics, the issue is about the racist, misleading slant used by the British media represented by The Times of London in ‘deceiving’ the ‘reading’ public.

The question begging for an answer then, is, does ‘foreign or foreigner’ denote or remotely connote ‘White’? Well, maybe remotely. But in the story it published, Times London’s use of white denotes something more sinister than foreign, something racist.

For clarification, defines “White” as “a racialized classification of people and a skin colour specifier, generally used for people of European origin; although the definition can vary depending on context, nationality, and point of view.” It added, “The usage of “White people” or a “White race” for a large group of mainly or exclusively European populations, defined by their light skin, among other physical characteristics, and contrasting with “black”, “red”, “brown”, “yellow”, and other “coloured” people or “persons of colour”, originated in the 17th century.” It provides synonyms for it to include the Caucasian race, Caucasoid race, and the White race.

Satisfied with the definition, I turned to the Merriem-Webster dictionary to search for “foreign”. It gave a couple of meanings: “situated outside a place or country especially situated outside one’s own country; born in, belonging to, or characteristic of some place or country other than the one under consideration;  of, relating to, or proceeding from some other person or material thing than the one under consideration; related to or dealing with other nations and not being within the jurisdiction of a political unit (such as a state).”

The above shows that there is very little synonymous relationship between ‘white’ and ‘foreign’. This clearly shows that a ‘white’ Nigerian-British citizen or any ‘white’ Nigerian for that matter is not affected by the ban. Certainly, people like our dear Ashleigh Megan Plumptre who plays for the Super Falcons, Fares Boulos-Oyibo Rebel, a content creator (comedian); Prof. Desmond Majekodunmi of the Lekki Urban Forest and Animal Shelter Initiative among other thousands of white and naturalized Nigerians who count as Whites will not be affected by the ban.

It also means that voice-over artistes and models from neighbouring Cameroun, Ghana, Benin Republic, Niger Republic, Chad, and Sierra Leone are affected by the ban. Do Richard Assheton and The Times of London think that everyone in Ghana is white? Are they insinuating also that Nigeria is without ‘whites’? How does a ban against foreigners mean “British White models” and voiceovers with “British accents”? How about the Arabs, Chinese, Other Africans, and other nationals whom the term ‘foreign’ apply to?

“Wow! How could you get a story so wrong?”

Browsing the comments section of the website, it is easy to see that the reading public could easily read through what The Times of London was trying to do. One BatterseaBob wrote: “Typical clickbait heading for The Times these days. In fact, it is all foreigners who are affected by this measure, not just white. It seems clear from the article itself that this measure is principally to stop Nigerian ads from being made in South Africa and Kenya, where most of the models are not white. So, it is an economic measure rather than anything about race.

“Nevertheless, I appreciate the point that if the UK tried a similar measure, there would be outrage. We live in a world of double (or, rather, multiple) standards – one only has to compare how Moslem rights to worship are upheld in the UK against Christian rights in certain Moslem countries.”

Nina Jones, another reader obviously noticing a trend wrote: “Again The Times misleads in its heading. Non-Nigerian does not mean white!”

Stebal wrote: “Article is misleading because Naomi Campbell would be banned too. The ban is on non-Nigerians so it would include other Africans, Asians, North and South Americans, Caribbean, and Europeans. Another exaggerated article in the Times. Really, don’t expect tabloid-type journalism in a quality newspaper. Disgraceful!

Another commenter by the name Blackhand called the story a ‘Dishonest Race Baiting’. “THIS IS INACCURATE they are banning non-local Models. If you are Nigerian-born and White you can still model. Wow! How could you get a story so wrong? I used to buy this paper for news. Not Dishonest race-baiting.

Asylum247 simply questioned: “Why such an inflammatory headline to rally the white folk? Clearly, the policy is against all foreign actors. So really why paint it as ethnics being racist against whites? Makes you wonder about your motives and slant. Didn’t realise foreigners were a race….”

Sacrificing ethics on the altar of sensationalism

In all intent and purpose, Asshton and The Times of London aimed for the sensational in getting the clickbaits as many of its readers alleged. For emphasis, sensationalism in journalism is a tactic used in an attempt to gain an audience’s attention. To achieve this, some media outlets resort to the use of shocking words, exaggeration, and sometimes blatant lies.

Alison Dagnes, a professor of political science at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania, described some of the ways sensationalism is used. “Amplifying language, trying to use very big words that are exacerbating,” Dagnes said, “something that invokes … a whole lot of emotion.”

This has been a topic of controversial debate for some time now and raises questions of whether the drive for sensationalism conflicts with a journalist’s duty for fair and honest reporting. Sensationalism is used by journalists to attract readers to their articles. David Berube — a communications professor focusing on science and technology from North Carolina State University — provided some insight on sensationalism and the tactics used with it.

“It goes everywhere from the teaser, which is an old trick … it is done in print and broadcast media, all the way to outright lies,” Berube said.

With the report from The Times of London, people like Ashleigh Megan Plumptre and thousands of naturalized ‘White’ Nigerians should be affected by the ARCON law… but they are not.

One of the biggest uses of sensationalism is headlines. When you are looking at a magazine or website and see those big bolded words, they attract your attention. News and media outlets know that headlines attract readers, so they use this to their advantage. Often times headlines feature an over-exaggerated display of events. With the rig­ht wording, the most mundane thing can be blown out of proportion.

Fear-mongering is the act of intentionally playing with the fears of others to arouse fear or anger — another sensationalist tactic. Media outlets will prey on the fears of others in order for them to notice their content, as the ARCON story done by The Times of London has done.

“Once you get someone’s attention, then you know you can weave your way through a very convoluted and probably implausible argument and make it appear more reasonable,” Berube said. Quoting Steve Babaeko, President of the Advertising Agencies Association of Nigeria, AAAN, and Bolanle Olukanni, a Nigerian model was a way The Times of London used to balance the skewed story that speaks to racism.

Sensationalism also raises concerns about the ethical conflicts it has with a journalist’s code of honour. The over-exaggerated nature conflicts with a journalist’s duty to be honest and fair. Perhaps if Asshton understands that as a journalist, it is his duty to deliver facts to the public and not be deceptive with their stories, he may have written a different story. Sensationalism violates a lot of ethical guidelines in favour of these tactics.

The thing about sensationalism is that it actually works, according to psychology studies on the topic of “clickbait.” The term has been popularized to define content that is intentionally made to attract views, and lure people into clicking a link. This type of content is a perfect example of sensationalism in the digital age.

“I think the reason the journalist turns to sensationalism is that we readership is so attracted to the dramatic and sensational,” Berube said. “The Greeks discovered years ago people love drama and so it becomes the tool that they can use.”

People are naturally attracted to the bold and daring; therefore, journalists like Asshton feel the need to appeal to this. The companies that these journalists work for also take note of this and exploit readership.

These top African non-Nigerian models are affected by the ARCON ban…yet they are not ‘white’.

Both Asshton and The Times of London have with their story gone against the ethics of the noble journalism profession. They have shirked their responsibility by misinforming the British public. They have gone within the ‘reasonable’ lines of sensationalism to carry ‘fake news’ by publishing a story that has everything to do with racism targeted at the British white as against a ban announced on the use of foreigners in a country’s advertising system. They owe their readers an apology…they also owe the Nigerian people an apology.

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