By Tony Abolo
This paper is being put together at a very short notice. Hence, it may not scale as high and may not cover the field as we all may like. However we will take a sweeping view of origins, applications and uses, its penetration and challenges in our environment and attempt to look into the awkward and early penetration of Reality TV in our Nigerian space and a circumspect look at TV and a future.

Television is a visual medium for crying out loud. But we are still held bound by our origins in this environment by our Radio and sound and Theatre beginnings and history. We seem to be coming out of that with the success story of Nollywood, Kannywood, TOK and IROKO TV, to our most recent success in Mo Abudu – whose Ebony Life TV and Ebony Life group is now the Harvard Business School first case study, on a Female African Media Entrepreneur slated for teaching 1000 MBA students.

For all the thrills and excitement we get around Television Medium, and much as we consider it recent, especially from around the 1950s, the first experiments with Television started with Mechanical Scanning process, originally invented in Germany in 1884, until the days of electronic scanning by Allen Dumont with the Oscilloscope, similar to the TV Receiver tube. The Electronic pickup tube, the Iconoscope was developed by Vladimir Zworykin which improved scanning, definitions and brightness. However all these were in the Black and White Television days. Color, very high Frequency transmissions were in early start, back in 1946, 1947. It was not until 1948 that Television emerged as a Mass Medium, when Advertisers found the medium worth the attention because of a growing audience and after then,more systematic programming began.

Our own Television History began in Ibadan in 1959 in the WNTV – the first in Africa, even before the country, Ireland, had Television Broadcasting. It was largely devoted then to education and some cultural entertainment shows. Emulating the West, Eastern Nigeria started ENTV in Enugu and Radio/Television Kaduna commenced not too long after. Today there are over 76 BON station members, consisting of public and private broadcast stations and it is still growing. It is significant however to remark that in that growth statistics, there are more Radio stations, more because Radio Services are cheaper and easier to set up.

As a medium today, Television ought and should be a mass medium. This guarantees information rights and access. The Nigerian Broadcasting Commission, in one of its recent publications looks at the criteria to assess where we are in our Television content and programming. The yardsticks given are 1. Inclusivity

2. Diversity

3. Transparency and Openness

4. Autonomy

5. Accountability

In its import, when looking at the criteria set out:

Inclusivity means all voices, opinions and faces including those from minority groups. Every segment of the community and society should be encouraged.

Diversity means we must reflect all existing diversities, like ethnic identities, language, religion and gender.

Transparency and Openness requires that our broadcast planning and output should be open to all. Let all ideas flow and there should be no hidden agenda to raise any suspicion from viewers.

Autonomy means that Producers, Reporters and Editors should not be tied to any secret censorship mechanism. Professional judgments should be our guidelines. And

Accountability implies that our audience has every right to demand that we can account for our actions or inactions as reflected in our broadcast content.

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Having looked at the criteria set out by NBC, it is for each and every one of us to examine if that professional and moral code, guides our performances and actions. It is such adherence to those guidelines that can enhance the credibility and the utility value of Television broadcasting and viewership. It means therefore that there can be no excuses whether we are public or private broadcast stations. For too long, we have allowed politicians, vested interests to imprison us in our conduct. It is time to break free, in the public interest. For it is the public we serve. The BBC IS A MODEL HERE. It serves in the public interest as the funds it deploys are appropriated by Parliament and they remain free to criticize the Queen or the Prime Minister or the Government of the day. Advertising revenues rise and are driven by issues of credibility, integrity, forthrightness and concernfor the general public. Public broadcasting does not mean pandering towards political control nor does private broadcasting mean hankering and genuflecting before private ownership. If not, where is professionalism then? If we justify self censorship because of fear and intimidation when will our broadcasting have the caliberof CNN or Al Jazeera?

And speaking of CNN and AL Jazeera, brings me to the issue of aesthetics and nuances of OUR TELEVISION Broadcasting. Watch CNN, whenever, there is a Breaking News, can you notice the focus to details and thorough analysis of issues and circumstances, from different perspectives, after which they revert to their daily fare of American politics and American global interests. And now they have added podcasts available for viewers to watch anywhere and whenever. And there is online streaming as an added global outreach.

Al Jazeera, despite being an Arabiya located station, funded in the main by the Emir of Quatar, it covers the world with a passion of making information global and bringing the world comparative knowledge of events and places. See the breezy style of Canale France or the Focus and Style of the British,in order to set out the set apartedness of Britain on SKYE News or the assertiveness and soft power tone of the Chinese Broadcast Service from Beijing. Every station has its coloration and identity. Apart from Channels and to some extent TVC, most of our Television Stations are either steeped in outright propaganda, colourless and lack definitiveness of character to inspire and drive a people.

Television, still as a visual medium, remains a formidable channel for social mobilization around public causes and interest and hence must be a fulcrum for intervention in the Arts, Culture, Research and in critical areas of the local economy. We should ask ourselves, why do so many of our countrymen and women escape the local channels and head for Cable Television? It is either to escape from our unending propaganda fare, sometimes barefaced untruths and in terms of aesthetics, our blandness.

Through the benefit of Artificial Intelligence Technologies and the Internet of Things, Television broadcasting is now more virtual,more aesthetically visual, has improved resolutions, definitions and graphics are more subtle and visually appealing. We are still so far behind in our dinosaur analogue broadcasting. Our studios lack appeal and depth.

Then in terms of programming, we should find ourselves at the forefront of interventions in the economy. Today for example, if I should ask now, how many are Man U for Life Fans, Chelsea Fans, West Ham Fans, hands would rise in dozens and more. What has raised soccer to such heights? Television Sports Broadcasting. Do you now see, that because we have not used the same power of the TV medium, our NFL, our local Teams are like rags, non-descript. People want to play a little locally, get discovered and head to Europe or Asia. But if Television had played its role, the sports economy in Nigeria would be a million or a trillion naira industry. The days of using one camera, positioned on a Tripod on the Tartan tracks is old fashion and outdated and not on at all!!! Can we move into the 21st century?

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To re-emphasize the import of television in Sports Broadcasting, I would love to quote from an article in the Business Day of Friday 19th November 2021, under the title, FOOTBALL, THE NIGERIAN GOLD BEGGING TO BE MINED, Anthony Nlebem, writes:

“In the 2020/2021 season, the English Premier League saw winners, Manchester City take home £153.9 million. While runners up Manchester United received £153.5 million. To describe football as an industry, would be stating the obvious.”

“ Club earnings in the English Premier League are the highest in the world. Aside from what every club gets from the league, win or lose,they still attract sponsorships and other forms of support from corporate organizations. This increases the revenue base of clubs who in turn deploy the multiple sources of funds to retool their squad capacity”

“It is no more news that players like Pogba costs Manchester United, a world record transfer fee of £89.3 million and Lionel Messi’s two-year contract with PSG ensures a $41 million annual net salary. These monies find their way into the economies of the country these football stars play in.”

“There is no doubt that football is a money spinning sport, as the game is not only beautiful but also thriving in the Western World. As individuals, players earn millions from corporate sponsorships by brands that want to connect with their target market, not to mention cash flows from TV rights”

There is therefore no telling how much, we as Television broadcasters, are losing in the industry and in our stations and still, professionally speaking, not contributing to our Nigerian economy, by our lack of understanding of the potentials of a “gold mine”.

What has moved our Music and Film and entertainment industry? Television, of course. We must apply the medium to our information, investment knowledge dispersal, public policies, Research, Technologies, new talents and Discoveries, youth related issues,women affairs, manufacturing, interstate trade and competitiveness, Blue Economy, Inter African Trade, Tourism, Health, Education and Agriculture. These are what not only makes Television interesting source of knowledge and information but exciting and pleasurable. There is far too much of politics on our Television. Life is far more than politicians and political parties. In 60 years of Nigeria, where has all that politics reporting gotten us – other than poverty, divisiness, unemployment, misery, banditry, separatism and deep ethnic divide? Even if you claim, that politics is an important central discourse should Television not lead and drive the discussions and visions of 2023 and post 2023? Instead we are bogged down in inanities and rehashing those that are the so called leading contenders. But is that what Nigeria wants? Are those individuals capable of situating us post 2023?

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We have to make ourselves relevant in the centrality of propelling the economy. Television is used to make the UK, a brand for investment destination. America uses Television for its international marketing, destination branding and diplomacy. What purpose should our stations serve? What should we as professionals practice? Intervening in the economy should be our next focus. Retooling our knowledge, capacity and re-engineering the stations with modern day gadgets is imperative.

What could be holding us back, has been non visionary political leadership and lack of modern day crowd funding in private stations. Ted Turner once solely owned CNN. Not anymore. Time Warner and America-Online (AOL) now do. The funding model in our Broadcasting is a clear drawback. It is unsustainable. I have drawn your attention to one area to address, THE NEED to focus on the economy. The other possibilities are that the silent, uncollected Radio and TV rates and taxes, that by the Nigerian Constitution goes to the Local Governments.It is instructive to note that, BBC’s earnings from TV and Radio licences, amount to #159 pounds per household. This adds up to Ten million pounds per annum to the BBC total annual earnings. In our case, whether collected or not, the law ought to be amended as to make the funds available from a centrally controlled pool of fund, akin to TETFUND, to be disbursed to broadcast stations on a determined principle of sharing. Those are the kind of funds, when pooled, can get stations (a) outside the hold of political control (b) enhance contentquality (c) improve on our Television Technologies and (d) Deepen Democracy and entrench Democratic tendencies in our polity.

And then, the one big man, money bag ownership of a TV Station is not an enduring model. What we need is a Business Model, where many persons aggregate to own a station, with possible public equity participation at a future date. We have carried this model for too long. It has not worked with AIT for example. Some Radio Stations have come and gone as a consequence. We need a robust Business Model, instead.

Finally, Television is now global. Our game should no longer be an inside the country performance. Can we be global as well? Can somebody outside our shores find us, a model TV broadcast station that can compel viewership and an alternative source of entertainment and information?

On a final note,” BB Naija, Guilder Ultimate Search and Who Wants ToBe A Millionaire” are Reality TV shows that are transposed foreign cultures. They are not indigenous. These do not express us. Reality TV is from cultures that are individualistic and individuals who are in need of stimulation. We are communal by nature. Dance, Drama, Docu-dramas express us best. Look how Indians have interpreted Dance into their movies. That is Indian cultural expressions as an example. Why copy, when we can think through ourselves. Do we need Reality TV? I am not speaking of the moral and cheap easy money issues but more concerned on aesthetics and content delivery issues. Do we, I ask again, need copy cat Reality TV? Can we find our own realities, our own indigenousREALITY TV and showcase ourselves before ourselves on our own terms and to the world?

I thank you.


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