I am very delighted to be back in Lagos; I have returned here three times in the past seven days. It is particularly heartwarming to also be amongst you, in this imposing structure at the Department of Mass Communication of the University of Lagos. I came here a few months ago, to see the quality of equipment installed in the radio and television studios here. And that visit was the first I was making since my time as a student in this Department, thirty-six years ago. So much has changed here! I think our Lagos Zone has chosen a very good venue for this Skill Enhancement Workshop. And because this is the first in a series of similar workshops we hope to organize nation-wide, I have chosen to attend the opening ceremony here in Lagos, to underline the importance the NBC attaches to this gathering. Similarly, Lagos is Nigeria’s biggest and leading media market, it is therefore very vital to get things started on the right note here in order to set the right tone for other parts of the country.
Let me start by saying that I was an announcer/presenter on radio for about twenty years. I was trained at the Radio Nigeria Training School, then located inside the Broadcasting House in Ikoyi, by the most wonderful Mrs. Stella Awani. We trained in a very disciplined and professional ambience, which allowed us to see and be positively influenced by the great announcers/presenters/newsreaders of those golden years of Nigeria broadcasting: Ikenna Ndaguba; Martins Okoh; Mike Enahoro; Marius Ugada; Kelvin Amaechi; Ron Mgbatogu; Kalu Nsi; and the generation of Yori Folarin; Jones Usen; Soni Irabor; Theresa Nyong; Roseline Ogbangwor, just to mention a few. What stood this period out, was the discipline that was central to the performance of the announcer/presenter.
We knew that we held a major responsibility on behalf of the institution that we worked for, as well as our country. There was no aspect of presentation that was not taken seriously: the announcer’s diction; choice of music and attitude to presentation; personal comportment; rigorous and detailed logging on every shift; voicing scripts; proper pronunciation of Nigerian names. A presenter painstaking researches his/her subject, and I recall with nostalgia, how announcers/presenters, and even artists like the late John Ndisika, would spend hours in the listening booths, inside the library, listening to every single piece of music that was to be used for programs. Announcers/presenters knew it was an unpardonable crime to allow slip through a piece of music that was classified as NTBB! The weekly presentation meeting was the dread for every announcer, because of the regular post-mortem exercises which dissected the on-air performances of presenters. These would range from the news bulletin; the entire continuity announcements made during a shift; a music presentation or the voicing of a commentary piece.
The announcer/presenter was kept on his/her toes and there was a rigorous peer review process, which encouraged the best professional attitude. No wonder, whoever went through that experience, became a genuine professional as an announcer, presenter or newsreader. And they often became famous nationwide!
The situation is different today. We now have far more radio and television stations today in our country. That is a very good thing, because of the opportunities that this opens up, not only to create new jobs, but because of the importance of broadcasting to the deepening of dialogue and the vigorous debate that can enhance democracy. But the professional training has not matched the rigors of the past. I know that announcers/presenters now refer to themselves as On-Air-Personalities (OAPs). Many of these believe they have the liberty to say whatever pleases them; many enjoy listening to the sound of their own voices, and believing they are superstars now, have somehow earned the immunity from decency and the measured, responsible professionalism, intrinsic to being presenters in broadcasting.
Many of the new broadcasting stations do not put a premium on the training of their presenters, and the fact that the pool of trained presenters has thinned out or disappeared, new entrants do not have the professional ambience and training within which to grow as professionals, over a long time. So the unprofessional attitude has festered along with the delusions associated with the arrogant, yet unprofessional posturing of the modern day OAP!
Another worrisome trend is the proliferation and constant abuse of the Phone-In format in today’s broadcasting. It is a very easy programming format to stage, and there is often very little production that goes into it. And because it is also a very populist platform, it is one that broadcast stations use to reach a wide array of audiences. The worry is that in many instances, the phone-in format has become the platform for hate speech; incitement and for the stoking of base emotions that is not conducive to the good order of our society.
The phone-in format is often unmediated; while presenters in many instances allow their own emotions to run with their audiences, forgetting that they have a professional responsibility to be gatekeepers. In recent months, around Nigeria, the phone-in format has been used to purvey hate; prejudices and even secessionist propaganda! These are unacceptable! The broadcast airwave should be used to deepen democratic debate in Nigeria, to help democratic consolidation in our country. The Nigerian Constitution obliges the Nigerian media to hold the government accountable to the people, and NBC encourages the upholding of this important constitutional obligation. However, I will like to remind all of us, that we would not standby and allow the persistent abuse of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code. Broadcasting cannot be and we will not allow it to be used for hate speech; for divisive or secessionist propaganda. All licensees need to remember that they have an obligation to use broadcasting in Nigeria, to help enhance national unity. There is no exception to this! Those who do not mediate the abuse of the phone-in programming format, allowing its use to preach hate and to walk the edges of subversion, are warned; we can and we would revoke such licenses, if the pattern persists!
I am very happy that our Lagos Zone has put together this two-day skill enhancement workshop, which should help our colleagues to reflect on their position in broadcasting architecture. It is very good that we would be able to hear from the regulatory body, the NBC, but more importantly, we would tap from the experiences of some of the very best presenters that Nigeria has produced. I am glad to see the names of some of my old colleagues in the lineup: Jones Usen; Soni Irabor; John Momoh; Lekan Ogunbanwo; Lemi Olalemi and the venerable Bimbo Oloyede. I think that is a very rich cast! You are very lucky indeed. Please take advantage of the gathering to tap into the experiences of these individuals, to help make you the very best of yourselves; to become the next generation of well-trained, professionally responsible Nigerian broadcast presenters! Welcome to this two-day skill enhancement workshop for presenters!
Thank you very much for your attention!