UNDERSTANDING THE REALITIES OF NIGERIA’S CHANGING MEDIA LANDSCAPE
Let me first of all thank the leadership of the Broadcasting Organizations of Nigeria (BON), for inviting me to address this gathering. I was an active member of the organization for five years, between 1997 and 2002, when I worked as Pioneer General Manager of the Kwara State Television (KWTV), in Ilorin. It is important that BON has put together a conference of this magnitude on the Digitization Process in Nigeria. As the umbrella body for the Content Providers of the era of digital broadcasting, BON recognizes the importance of the process we are all working to actualize. No knowledge can be a waste; and the stock of contributions generated from this gathering would certainly enrich our praxis as we collectively walk the path of Nigeria’s digitization process. I have been asked to talk on: “UNDERSTANDING NIGERIA’S CHANGING MEDIA LANDSCAPE”. I guess what informed the choice, is the fact that I have worked in radio and television broadcasting as well as print journalism, in my forty years of professionalism.
The key point to note is that Nigeria’s media landscape is changing rapidly. In truth, the Nigerian media landscape has never been static; let us narrow it down to only the broadcasting end of the media. This sector is influenced by changes in technology, media policy generally and evolutions in the ecology and the architecture of broadcasting.
First, there was the colonial-era media, with all the trappings of colonial ideology. According to Egbon (2001) the press was a very active agent in the colonial administration’s attempts to influence Nigerian thought and aspirations. The colonial administration systematically used the press to build the desired image of life, development, culture and modernization in accordance with the imperial plan for the colony. Newspapers like The Nigerian Review, relayed only official views, and through such media, subordinate role for Africans was inculcated.
• Mass media organs during colonial times were manipulated to serve colonial interests and promote British culture, as well as economic and political, domination in Nigeria. However, a section of the press managed by “Editor-Nationalists” also grew to occupy a parallel position. It became the opposition to the colonial government. The press, thus because a formidable instrument in the hands of these Nigerian nationalists to fight for freedom. Some of these newspapers like Lagos Weekly Record, the Lagos Daily News, The Nigerians Spokesman, The Daily Comet, all played a tremendous role in stoking the embers of Nigerian nationalism. This situation, however, changed as earlier noted, just before independence and during Nigeria’s First Republic.
BROADCASTING IN NIGERIA:
• In his book Democratic Journalsim in Two Worlds, Egbon (2001) also traces the historic origins of broadcasting in Nigeria and notes that in view of the huge size of Nigeria, the linguistic and cultural differences, the Nigerian Broadcasting Service (NBS), the harbinger of the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) born in 1957, was organized on regional basis. Its national headquarters were situated in Lagos for the whole federation. Ibadan for the West, Enugu for the East and Kaduna for the North. This arrangement followed closely the colonial administrative structure of the country. Nigerian broadcasting in its second phase of development changed considerably in the hands of the nationalists/politicians. Nationalists, who agitated for independence, reversed the inherited the colonial order of broadcasting. The Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), was now modeled after the BBC in policy and functions. Upliftment and enlightenment of the Nigerian populace became the paramount concern of the Corporation. The NBC was consequently enjoined to provide as a public service, independent and impartial broadcasting services to the nation as a whole. The planners emphasized this aspect because of their major pre-occupation with national integration. Nevertheless, the regional governments raised charges of sectionalism and partiality against the NBC, and subsequently established their own regionally owned and controlled systems.
EMERGENCE OF REGIONAL BROADCASTING:
One of the chief factors that gave impetus to the proliferation of broadcasting systems in the country was the existence of regional loyalties rather than national. Political parties emphasized regional loyalties and it was within this unstable constitutional scene that broadcasting in Nigeria developed. Furthermore, the ruling party at the federal level invariably monopolized Radio Nigeria. The “equal time” opportunity privilege which was included in the corporation’s charter, was usually denied opposition parties to air their own views on crucial national issues. There were numerous complaints from all quarters of the Nigerian political arena that the NBC was not adequately catering to their respective needs. There were complaints that news reporting was partial and skewed against the regions and that the regions were victims of NBC discrimination. Consequently, regional governments felt they could no longer depend upon the NBC for adequate coverage, as long as broadcasting remained a federal instrument and monopoly, and so they established their own regionally-owned stations.
• These regional government owned stations, like their print media counterparts, were manipulated by the regional governments to their own political advantage, against both local and national political rivals, even though the ostensible motive for establishing them, was national development.
• While the pre-independence media in Nigeria took a firm anti-colonial, nationalist stance, in the struggle for independence; after independence, there was a major shift of emphasis in the Nigerian press, just as in other African countries.
• The news media in effect became part of the general instrument of national integration. The deliberate attempt to use the press in Nigeria as a national unifier was occasioned by the fissiparous role the press played in the struggle for political hegemony by the various ethno-regional groups shortly after independence. As a matter of fact, the Nigerian press became fragmented along political, regional and ethnic lines. Consequently, the press largely, became an instrument used by the powers that be, to satisfy sectional whims and caprices.
• Egbon reiterates that major forces operative in Nigeria’s internal disharmony stemmed from the unequal rate of development of component ethnic groups and between different regions, with regards to economic development, cultural values, and above all, Western education, introduced by the colonial powers. Because of this general problem and increasing expectations, there started among people, claims for separate status along ethnic or linguistic borders, even on the eve of independence. And mutually reinforcing these tensions were geographical, economic, political and religious differences, that were created at the beginning of the twentieth century by the British colonial administration which after “creating Nigeria”, also nurtured government, along divisive ethno-regional lines. The results of this practice in later years, led to political upheavals, which the country is still grappling with to date.
DEREGULATION OF BROADCASTING:
By 1992 the Industry became deregulated with the promulgation of the NBC Act 38 of 1992. This created a revolution in the industry and facilitated the emergence of private /commercial broadcasting, such that today there are over 793 radio and TV stations in the country-significantly many of them privately owned and run as businesses.
• Population: over 190m+.
• Another 10 million Nigerians live abroad, one of the world’s largest diasporas
• GDP: $5121 billion (2013) GDP growth 6.1% GDP per capita $2,800 (2012)
• Highest number of TV/VCR penetration in Africa of 26 million TVH
• Most active media/broadcast sector with over 700 TV Radio stations
• “Nollywood”: The 3rd largest movie producing nation after India and Hollywood.
• The Nigerian entertainment market is deep.
• With 55 per cent of Nigeria’s 192 million population being accounted by youths-
• DIGITIZATION REGULATORY THRUST
Broadcast Policy Pillars Current Situation
Free to Air DTT for all Nigerians Majority of Nigerians currently access only FTA, and this is likely to continue. Pay TV projected to hit 25% of TVHH by 2017
Increase TV offering with more diversity & Role of DTT Pay TV platforms Current quality of TV offering is below expectation; eg. Insignificant local children/youth or family oriented programming. Note current Advertising market not able to support increased FTA TV offerings alone.
Promote Regional TV/Local TV content Current TV offering also not adequately reflect wide diversity of communities in Nigeria
Promote more home grown Pay Channels 80% + of current pay TV offering are foreign originated. Note
Involve deep stakeholder collaboration Support Current Analogue operators must be involved in developing future DTT offering
Protect Consumers/ Promote increased competition Increased concern that current TV market, especially regards pay TV is not competitive enough.
BENEFITS OF THE DSO
• More local content (news, sport, etc.): increasing social inclusion
• More jobs: more locals involved in TV production
• Greater advertising market, stimulating growth in local businesses
• Better overall viewing experience
• NBC is focusing attention on promoting: FTA + PayTV channels, & mobile.
• creation of more broadcasting services to fill current gaps in content and services such as:
• Themed channels, special interest channels, educational and children’s channels, regional channels, as well as new HD services;
• Competition in relation to the provision of broadcasting services and associated facilities;
• Interoperability, and new digital interactive television services: encourage interoperability through the use of open standards.
• Credible audience measurement & advertising: success of FTA is dependent on the above.
Digitag (2012) observes that in many countries, the launch of digital technology has helped revive the terrestrial television platform. The availability of a new multichannel service offering, often freely available, has enabled the terrestrial platform to successfully compete with other methods of delivery. New broadcasters have entered the market, increasing competition and viewer choice. It has also enabled governments to put in place the necessary regulations to ensure the availability of local content, media pluralism and viewer protection. In many European countries, broadcasters have offered new content in a multi-channel approach while broadcasters in the United States, Japan and Australia have concentrated on offering high-definition television services. In Africa, pay operators have emerged as key stakeholders on the DTT platform and offer extensive, and competitive, pay – DTT packages.
• STB Strategy: What we are doing
• NBC has authorised 13 Local STB Manufacturers.
• The Commission has introduced a National Common Set Top Box System based on the Inview middleware and Nagra CA technologies which provide a platform for the introduction of Conditional Access, Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) and many new value added services, such as; interactive services, interactive advertising, and e-Government services. Additional STB peripherals such as Personal Video Recording (PVR) and Wi-Fi enabling devices will also be governed under these national standards.
• Channel Strategy
• The Commission recognises that, a successful digital switchover (DSO), and the rapid free view digital TV (FTV) uptake across Nigeria, is dependent on consumer willingness to acquire a set-top-box (STB). The Commission worked on a fair, reasonable & non-discriminatory selection process measured against:
• high quality domestic and international content;
• great choice of FTV content;
• channel appeal across a range of demographics; and
• mix of new/original programming and library content
A cardinal point in Nigeria’s mass communication policy is the promotion of Indigenous local content in our creative industry. This is largely derived from the economic, social, technological and other objectives of the media and the creative industry.
Over the years the Federal government of Nigeria through its regulatory agencies, has been able to articulate guidelines and regulatory interventions that responded to the changes of the broadcasting landscape and promoted the attainment of the lofty ideals of broadcasting in Nigeria.
For instance, government deliberately instituted a local content ratio of 60 percent /40 percent foreign to ensure the growth of the local creative industry-music, drama film and television. This provision, more or less, led to the explosive growth of the local music and film industry in Nigeria, leading to the discovery of several stars and creating opportunities for the young to maximize their creative potentials.
In the same vein when government discovered that the valuable family belt of 6.00pm to 10.00pm on Television was dominated by foreign content, government came out with a policy requesting television stations to ensure that only indigenous local content was aired at that prime time belt. The obvious advantage was that local content now gained traction and enjoyed advertising spend which was hitherto spent on the foreign companies that brought them to Nigeria.
A recent intervention is with the on- going digitization of broadcasting in Nigeria, where government demonstrated commitment to promoting local industry. The entire delivery chain is run by Nigerian companies: Signal Distribution, Set-Top Box production and Content production. All the 30 channels on the DTT platform are owned by Nigerians and government is willing to create more opportunities so that Nigerians can commodify and monetize their content.
Recently government requested production houses targeting the Nigerian market to obey the Local content policy. The economic objective of a production targeted at Nigeria is lost, when all creatable ancillary jobs and other benefits, are shipped abroad. There was a time over a decade ago that ‘Big brother Nigeria’ was recorded in Nigeria. We know that many of our creative and technically skilled youths gained knowledge from that experience. Many formats are being recorded in Nigeria today-formats like ‘to be a millionaire-‘ ‘The voice’ and other reality shows. It is therefore worrisome that several years after that well-conceived, indigenous breakthrough, in big time reality show production, the most recent Big Brother N9ja was taken abroad for production. It is therefore key that we grow in our ability to produce locally or at least co-produce here in Nigeria than reverse our earlier gains by taking shows for production outside Nigeria. The local content policy of the federal government of Nigeria is one that is being studied and emulated by several countries in the world.
Let me round up, by stating that the transition to Digital broadcasting will open up tremendous opportunities for new generations of Nigerian content providers. President Muhammadu Buhari, met American industry leaders on the margins of his last address to the United Nations General Assembly. He emphasized that Nigeria is determined to create and fast-track the development of a national digital economy. Our transition from analogue to digital broadcasting is one key element of that presidential promise. It is also one of the best illustrations of the changing media landscape in Nigeria.
Thank you very much for your attention!