Gen. Babangida, Nigeria Former Head Of State legacy of private broadcasting

In the past, broadcasting was an exclusive central government preserves which means private individuals do not have the right under law to invest in the sector.

Broadcasting is an aspect of modern mass media which meant that signals could be sent out to anyone within broadcast range who possessed the equipment to pick it up.

This was a vast change from the physical delivery necessary to connect print media like books and magazines with readers. Once the mechanical infrastructure was in place at both the broadcasting and receiving ends, no further physical connection was necessary between the two. Among the many advantages for broadcasting is the instant nature of these media.

News and stories about current events can be served to the viewers live and from the location of the event simultaneously, differing from newspapers, which can at best print a special edition within several hours. Likewise, entertainment programmes can take advantage of the audio and visual capabilities of these media in ways that print media cannot, bringing stories to life in viewers’ living rooms.

The immediacy of news and public information programming is important to audiences as well. Action can be taken quickly when important news is broadcast, and in emergency situations, broadcasting can be dedicated to potentially life-saving instructions from government officials and other concerned agencies as the case may be.

Unlike advertising in print media, advertisers in television and radio can present a face or voice to represent a company or product. This can be accompanied by an array of production techniques, such as music and special effects. All of these elements combine to increase trust, intrigue, excitement or whatever emotion the advertiser desires. In addition, television allows the advertiser to demonstrate the product, rather than simply talk about it. All these were the juicy benefits enjoyed by both state-owned and federal-owned radio and television stations particularly, the Nigeria Television Authority, NTA, until  former military President, Ibrahim Babangida, broke the monopoly and liberalised the broadcasting market in favour of private investors.

The advent of private broadcasting, however, reveals a very competitive industry with indicators suggesting that the private stations are giving the public stations a run for their money in terms of acceptability through quality programming leading to increased patronage and attraction of adverts. A key significance is the socio-cultural, economic and political gains of the deregulation for Nigeria.

In the first case, it is seen that private broadcasting has promoted the cultural values of the country with the production and broadcast of indigenous programmes such as dramas, Nigerian home videos, musicals and soap operas, etc. Secondly, several job opportunities have been created in Nigeria where unemployment is rife. Politically, the deregulation has engendered a new spectacle and grandeur in political reporting and analysis.

The various political programmes of some of the private stations such as ‘‘Kakaaki’’and ‘‘Focus Nigeria’’ of Africa Independent Television, AIT, ‘‘Sunrise Daily’’, and ‘‘Politics Today’’ on Channels Television, ‘‘Head 2 Head’’ on Silverbird Television etc, provide platforms for not only objective and timely political developments within the polity but also reveals a clear departure from hitherto placid nature of news and political coverage during the era of sole government domination of the industry.

However, in Nigeria for several decades following the inception of broadcasting in 1957, the industry led a sheltered life shielded from the winds of free market forces as successive regimes ensured that the sector remained an exclusive monopoly of the central government. Even the 1979 constitutional provision for the establishment of private electronic media could not change the trend.

It could be argued that perhaps government’s initial monopoly of the industry may not be unconnected with the seeming potential of broadcasting as a tool for social change and engineering which as such ought not to be left in the hands of ‘‘just anyone’’.

In another twist it is probable that private entrepreneurs would emphasize an orientation towards exclusive commercialism rather than consideration for national interest. Arguably that may be another reason for governments grip on the industry for many decades.

Be that as it may, the much realistic and feasible deregulation materialised in 1992 when the Babangida-led regime promulgated decree 38 which deregulated the industry and also established effectively the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC. This decree (38) of August 24, 1992 empowered the NBC to regulate the entire broadcast industry in Nigeria, both public and private.

This singular act by the administration of the then military President Gen. Babangida eclipsed the over 50 years of sole government domination of the sector in Nigeria. In economic term the action by that government heralded proliferation of private electronic media as entrepreneurs and investors for profit maximization in the larger interest of the citizenry.

Meanwhile, key milestone in broadcast media whether private or public, cannot be discussed without due cognizance to the success recorded by the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, then premier of western region who despite all odds meritoriously pioneered broadcast media in Nigeria and indeed Africa in 1959. The birth of the Western Nigerian Television (WNTV) was described as ‘‘accidental’’ since Chief Awolowo embarked on it due to his inability to use the services of the Federal Radio station to reply to the broadcast of then Governor-General Macpherson over the constitutional matters of 1953. It would be recalled that Pa Awo (of blessed memory) was denied use of Federal radio even when the commission has an obligation to give objective and impartial news and views to its listeners.

Thus as a result of this and other related developments and taking into perspective the 1954 constitutional provision in which broadcasting ceased to be in the federal exclusive list, Chief Awolowo established in partnership with overseas Rediffusion Company limited of the United Kingdom, the Western Nigerian Television (WNTV) at Ibadan.

The station was operated as an arm of the Western Nigeria broadcasting commission, which by 1960 has introduced radio broadcast over the whole region. Following the breakthrough of the Western Region in broadcasting, other two regions in Nigeria then, North and East upon realizing the power and influence of radio and television went on to establish their own broadcast stations.

However, the erroneous views of the fifth columnists that the government of President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida was an aberration on the wishes and aspirations of Nigerians during his eight years rule were completely baseless. The eight years reign might not be democratic but it ushered in many democratic dividends.

For the record, Gen. (rtd) Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida’s dispassionate believe in project Nigeria whilst in office successfully brought about the establishment of National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), introduction of Primary Health Care, deregulation of Finance and Money Market (Banks /Finance), introduction of Debit Conversion Programme, and introduction of Gifted Children’s Programme.

IBB’s government also established Nomadic Education Programme, Nigeria Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA), National Productivity Centre, and National Economic Reconstruction of Fund (NERFUND). The administration as well introduced Economic Diplomacy; it strengthened and empowered Local Government administration making it to be core grassroots government and created more Local Governments.

It was equally instrumental to the enactment of Oil Prospecting Acreages to Nigerian Oil Companies, enactment of the Copyright Law which led to the establishment of Copyright Council this thankfully permit them to bark and bite.

The regime moved Presidency to Abuja (New Capital), and completed the construction of third Mainland Bridge for Nigeria’s commercial nerve centre (Lagos State), bridging the gap between Mainland and Island, to fortify economic prosperity and break every logistic barriers, to mention but a few.

Mr. EMMANUEL AJIBULU, a commentator on national issues, wrote from Abuja.

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