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.

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