Remarks by Honourable Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, at the Inauguration of the Board of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) on Tuesday, 9 May 2017 in Abuja, Nigeria
Ladies and gentlemen. On behalf of His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, I once again congratulate you on your nomination to the board of the Nigerian Television Authority.
As we celebrate this achievement with you today on the occasion of your inauguration, it is incumbent upon us to acknowledge the uniqueness of the times, and to understand the weight of the responsibility being placed on our shoulders. In several ways, our dear nation Nigeria is in a period of transition – a period of change.
And, as with all periods of change, a certain degree of uncertainty, apprehension, and even outright opposition, is bound to greet our efforts at every turn.
Our job is to take our nation into a brighter future in spite of these challenges. The future of this country rests on how well we are able to execute our various mandates.
Broadcasting, especially television, is a powerful tool and a sensitive platform. If put to good and effective use, television can help shape society; inspiring the citizenry to strive for lofty
standards and new horizons. Governments around the world recognize this fact, and strive always to ensure that it is run with dignity and responsibility. The NTA cannot afford to be an exception.
Since its inception in 1959 as WNTV Ibadan, the Nigerian Television Authority has grown to become a beacon of excellence as the National Television Network for the people of Nigeria, in addition to being Africa’s largest Television Network. Its unbeatable reach and coverage set it apart as a beacon of excellence and indeed the National Television Network for the people of Nigeria.
The NTA’s key function is to provide independent and impartial Television Broadcasting for general reception as a public service in the interest of Nigeria. No other Television Station in Nigeria is charged with the same social responsibility of public interest broadcasting. Accordingly, the NTA must continue to serve as a tool for National Integration.
Over the years, the NTA has carried out its function of informing, entertaining and educating Nigerians with varying degrees of success. It has expanded opportunities for local competence, publicized government activities and assisted the enhancement of nationa integration. However, in recent times, many stakeholders have opined that the NTA has fallen behind the new generation of TV stations and broadcast organizations in the country in terms of viewership numbers and influence. Some have accused the NTA of pandering to the expressed wishes of the political leadership, and allowing the medium to be used by politicians for propaganda. While events in the recent past may have lent some credence to these claims, we simply cannot afford the luxury of indulging political arguments. There is a clear challenge in front of us, to take the NTA to new heights, to re-establish our social contract with our viewers and audiences, to lead the way in keeping the nation informed and educated, and all the while stepping boldly into the new future of digital broadcasting that is already threatening to leave us behind. We must take on these objectives without fear, favour or distraction.
Looking Forward into the Future
One of the most crucial challenges to be tackled by the new leadership of the NTA is the effective exploitation of the on-going switchover to digital broadcasting to cement the network’s place as Africa’s most influential network.
One of the primary justifications tendered by those who claim that the NTA has fallen from grace, lies with the seeming inability of the network in recent times to develop the kind of rich content that made the station the toast of the continent in yester-years.
The 1980s-1990s – hailed as the network’s golden era – saw the consistent churning out of relevant, impactful and desirable programmes such as Village Headmaster, Sa Manja, Masquerade, Cock Crow at Dawn, Behind the Clouds, Mirror in the Sun, Bala Miller Show, Giant in the Sun, No Victor No Vanquished and many other memorable programmes that signaled the network’s intentions to take African content to an international audience.
It is most imperative that the NTA borrows a leaf or two from this era even as it seeks to reposition itself for a more stellar future. Many of the previously listed flagship programmes were purposely designed and developed to positively promote the endeavours of the government. Cock Crow at Dawn for instance, was created to promote the Agricultural Programmes of the government of the day.
We must invest time and resources towards the development of content that reflects and promotes our culture and way of life. We cannot afford to shy away from our responsibility as custodians of our heritage and diversity.
I see the digital switch over as a new dawn for programming in Nigeria and Africa. It comes pregnant with opportunities to do things in a better way. The availability of more television channels and the changes in the structure of signal delivery opens up new possibilities in both public and private broadcasting. Besides Dramas and Soaps, the NTA also needs to invest urgently in a wide variety of programming types to give more depth and breadth to its broadcast.
In the seemingly “traditional” areas like news gathering and presentation, the NTA must strive to regain top spot. We must exert our creativity, independence and resources to gain traction over rival outlets. We must become reputed as a neutral, truthful and professional media outlet at the fore of the quest to bring integrity into today’s world of “alternative facts” and “fake news”.
African Content Revolution
Of the many issues thrown up by the transition to digital transmission, one of the most exciting is the unique opportunity to address the long-debated issue of local African content. Despite various government attempts to boost local production, an uncomfortable percentage of content on African television stations comes from US, European and Latin American international content providers.
These international content providers produce programmes for their own markets but offset the costs through selling global rights.
Over the years, Nigeria’s Nollywood has demonstrated that fiction programmes from one African country can be watched widely by people in other countries. Fiction output of this kind has the potential of shaping the continent politically and culturally. Several other African countries have also started to produce programmes that are more widely seen outside of where they were made.
As the NTA rises up to the challenge of the new competitive environment with more channels and changes in the structure of signal delivery, we must also generate sufficient high quality content with production values suited for the new platforms. We must find ways to get the most out of the transition; both in lowering the costs involved and getting the maximum amount of benefits inherent in it.
We must embrace modern technology to drive our process and people…and attract the most talented young people out there, while continuously training our own people, and collaborating with the best minds in the industry to develop content smartly and cost-effectively.
The new content development strategy for the NTA must find new ways of promoting government initiatives and programmes in a more professional manner; explore strategic partnerships with key government MDAs as well as strategic partnerships with key foreign partners and investors in media and broadcasting.
Going forward, we must recognize that the NTA brand is one of our most valuable assets. Once recognized worldwide for outstanding programmes and broadcasting excellence, it is essential that we creatively reinforce this mental imagery with our various targets.
Without any unnecessarily drastic changes, the NTA name and visual identity could do with some ‘refreshing’. And care must be taken to build the right associations around this brand going forward. The NTA must strive to regain its pride of place as a content and service provider free from political interests; thus restoring the NTA’s reputation for editorial integrity, impartiality, quality and creativity.
I thank you all for your kind attention