Apr 17, 2015

Simon Lalong and Broadcast Digitization



Digital TV

On April 11th, 2015, Simon Bako Lalong was elected the new Governor of Plateau State. On May 29th, he will be sworn in as the active governor of the state. The reins of the state will be handed over to him by the outgoing governor, Jonah David Jang.

As Jonah Jang leaves office on May 29th, he, no doubt, will leave behind a legacy for which well-meaning citizens of Plateau State will be proud of. The legacies of Jang are uncountable and surpass what has been achieved by any single governor of the state in almost forty years.

 It has often been said that governance is not an event, but a process. It is the reason why caring Plateau sons and daughters would want a continuation of grand projects started by the outgoing governor. I intend to talk about the issue of digitization of the Plateau Radio and Television Corporation, PRTVC.

As far as the issue of digitization of the PRTVC is concerned, the outgoing government has accomplished this. Not only did the Jang administration support the PRTVC to complete its digitization, it ensured the corporation was the first to accomplish this deed across the country, when it was flagged off as the pilot phase in Nigeria on June 30th, 2014.

The next challenge of digitization is the program content. Nobody fixed a dateline for any broadcast media as far as this is concerned. The implication of digitization is that the channel will be available for viewing to a wider TV audience. What that means is that viewers will have to choose among competing channels. Viewers don’t choose channels by chance, it is the content of the channel that determines whether they will tune to it or not. Thus, a TV channel may be available digitally but may not be watched, if viewers don’t consider its program content as attractive enough.

The PRTVC is not new to broadcast leadership across Nigeria. Having been born and raised in Jos I have known this, although, with a glint of doubt in my mind. This was because I had not traveled around the country to gauge the performance of other broadcast media at the time. Between 1997 and 2003, however, I had done a fair amount of traveling to appraise other broadcast media and make comparisons. Based on what I had seen from those parts of Nigeria, I could say that my guess was right at the time. For the regions of Nigeria I had not traveled to, I have asked friends who traveled there from Jos. Most say they still rated the PRTVC higher, but often don’t talk about it, fearing that people will consider their opinions subjective, since the corporation is located in their hometown.

In the last decade and half, however, standards on the PRTVC have fallen so low that it could not be said to be among the best anymore. The program contents have become so repelling that I was compelled to buy a DSTV decoder. I see TV decoders in many homes, here, on the Plateau, and with the switch to digitization, people will have access to hundreds of TV channels. Hence, it will not make sense to have a digitized TV channel that is not watched. The implication is that all that was spent on the digitization program amounted to waste.

Thus, the challenge before the incoming government is to support PRTVC to improve the quality of its program contents in order to, not only retain its traditional viewers, but attract more viewers from all locations where the channel will be accessible. There is a difference between designing program contents to reflect cultures and designing them to appeal to the ignorant, through compromise of intellectual modules of the program contents. That is, if people are not educated, one should not design program contents to help them preserve their ignorance. That will play down the role of the media as a channel of education for the people. Coincidently, the motto of PRTVC is: education, information and entertainment. The program contents must be made educationally high. Only so will it challenge the ignorant to find education. When program contents are high, they help children to grow up with enlightened mindsets. This is the easiest way by which media programs help in educating the people.

If a TV channel must become attractive, its programs should, also, reflect glamour, rather than reflect squalor. Glamour attracts, while squalor repels. When a channel exudes glamour it attracts many who will have to forgo other channels. The PRTVC has always been glamorous, but with the competition that digitization brings, there is the need to improve on what we already have.

It should be noted that in this era of scarce resources for governments, parastatals with the potential to be financially autonomous should be made to work towards achieving financial autonomy. This is only possible if the channel is the apple of the eyes of many; only then can adverts owners be won over. Thus, there is the need for the new government to help the PRTVC improve the quality of its program interiors to be able to survive competition.

Apr 1, 2015

Plateau’s Forgotten Campaign Issue


Image source: www.taraturner.com
Until the conflict era in the history of Plateau State (starting from the 2001 till date), the Christians and Muslims raised children along the same streets and educated them in the same classrooms. Back then, there were, also, common markets for followers of both faiths. Today, all these good indicators of peaceful living are non-existent as a result of the prolonged period of conflict between the two sides.

Those of us who grew up playing football with colleagues from across religious divides cherish feelings of brotherhood that had grown between us. It is the reason why we look forward to reunions, and is it, also, why we talk to each other with caution, ensuring we do not destroy a friendship that is important to us. Our experience has, thus, made us seers, who say, with certainty, that unless something is done the prevailing peace would remain fragile with the capacity to collapse on the slightest test.

In 2010 when fighting broke out in the town of Bukuru, two Muslim siblings called me to find out where I was. When I picked the phone they warned me to move with caution as fighting had broken out in the town of Bukuru.

Early this March, a Muslim man and an elderly woman made me deeply emotional. They were driving to Jos from Abuja and picked me up at Vom, as a passenger. The two appeared to be living in Jos, but the man asked too much questions about the rehabilitated roads he saw as we drove. I was prompted to ask, exactly, where he came from. It turned out that he and I were born in the same town. When I mentioned who my dad was, it was then the elderly woman, who happened to be the driver’s mom, screamed in surprise. In that town, our houses were just a couple of blocks apart. When they dropped me somewhere around Grand Cereal and Oil Mills, the woman looked at me and said: “you are just a carbon copy of your dad.” She was aging, but her memories remained very strong. When I offered my fare for the trip, the man looked at it as if it was a piece of evidence that would incriminate him. He declined to accept it, shaking his head.

I thought of the fighting in Plateau State. It has separated the people so far apart that it seemed there could never be love between them. But, my experience with members of the Manu family made me felt the strong bond that can grow among diverse people by the mere fact that they lived along the same street.

Nigeria remains a single united nation. This is, also, the general wish of a bulk of the Nigerian population. It is, however, a paradox to be a single nation but live across borders.  The worst and the most dangerous face of it is the notion of “we and them” that grows in the minds of kids living across these borders. When children grow up without interaction, they do not understand each other and become easy victims of people whose continued wish is to see that community members remain hateful of one another. This living situation will continue to undermine peace and security in the state, as a result.

While I monitored the Plateau Gubernatorial Debate on radio sometimes in February, the issue of the divided people and the need for their integration never came up. We feel that if the state must remain peaceful for long, there is the need for the succeeding government to consider the issue of integration seriously. Governance is not a bed of roses. Issues like the challenge of integrating the people makes governance a bed of thorns. The incoming government needs to understand this.

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