After a long period of abstinence, I have returned to discover that there is still an open sore on the airwaves of Nigeria and since about over a decade ago, thanks to technology, from Nigeria to the airwaves of practically the whole world. The sore is in the form of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA). It is an open wound that hurts millions of Nigerians within and beyond the shores of Nigeria and it needs urgent healing; there is no other way of saying it, this NTA as it stands today needs to be either thoroughly reformed or completely disbanded.
As part of those that strongly advocate for the liberty to choose and for a dynamic market system around the world, we will not ordinarily bother to neither ask for nor participate in a public discourse on the quality and performance of any broadcasting corporation or media company in general. We simply would advise private individuals to make their positions known by using their remote controls to stay away from underperforming or even annoying TV and radio stations, we simply would let our newsagents know that we do not want to buy dailies that are not worth the papers they are printed on. We simply would advice companies not to advertise through media outlets that do not meet or at least reflect the quality of their products.
One cannot however take such stances when it comes to public service broadcasting organizations such as the BBC in the UK, France Télévisions in France, ZDF in Germany, RAI in Italy and the NTA in Nigeria. Their position is quite peculiar because just like state schools, hospitals and the police force, their activities affect most people’s lives; in addition, they were founded by governments and are funded by the state purse, i.e. taxpayers. These alone are enough reasons for any right thinking and civically coherent citizen to be interested and where possible involved in how things are going in public service broadcasting organizations.
On top of that is the kind of mandate they have, the NTA, for example, is the only television station in Nigeria strategically charged with the key social responsibility and key function of providing a public service in the interest of Nigeria, an independent and impartial television broadcasting for general reception and to serve as a tool for national integration. In its own declared vision, the NTA rightly wants to be a world class television network and its declared mission is to provide excellent Television Service worldwide and project the true African perspective. Their professed core values include professionalism, accuracy, credibility, impartiality, balance and objectivity, national interest, and sensitivity.
All these are of course mandates, visions, missions, goals and pure desires, a quick comparison with reality will immediately show even the most untrained observer that the NTA, as it is today, is more than far from its mandate and goals. If you ever watch NTA programmes, like I try to do, then you will certainly agree that those in charge of audio have some serious explanations to do. The volume goes off and on at will and when on, it randomly increases or reduces itself from too low to too high. Those sound engineers need to let us know what is wrong. Do they lack adequate equipment or are they are simply incapable of managing the equipment they have?
Save for some rare exceptions here and there, most of the programmes and their contents are simply pathetic. No need to mince words here. A lot of the documentaries and even mere reports the NTA offers the world seem based on researches and essays written by weak uncreative GCE O level students. The heads of programming and all those that commission programmes or influence them need to be made to reread what the NTA should be doing, watch what their counterparts are doing elsewhere, reevaluate their own performance and they too should tell us what is wrong with their departments.
One thing worse than the bad programmes on NTA are some of the broadcasters that present these bad programmes. Many of the voices and faces that come on TV should just not be there. A lot of them come on air with shockingly poor diction, little or no mastery of punctuation and an alarming ignorance of their subject matter. Those training and recruiting these broadcasters need to completely review their processes. A lot of their staff needs to be retrained or redeployed.
As an expert of internationalization and joint ventures, I come across a lot of potential international investors and prospective joint venture partners who watch the NTA as part of their due diligence on Nigeria in order to understand the country and decide if and how to do business there. Imagine the anguish when people switch from BBC to NTA beside you. NTA’s board must realise they are causing a lot of embarrassment, frustration, and irritation to many Nigerians at home and abroad and that they are even disgracing and denting the image of the country internationally.
Things should not be allowed to continue this way, luckily, with competent and willing hands, it is not impossible to change the situation. The board and management of the NTA need to be put on notice. They should reform or be disbanded.