Once upon a time, in Nigeria, local television was the delight of our living rooms. Those who invested in satellite television subscriptions were looked upon as people who only wanted to indulge in luxury. There were enough television programs and soaps to cater adequately to everyone’s needs – children’s belt, my forte at the time, rocked fabulously.
Today, even a shack that tethers on the brink of collapse, can boast of a satellite T.V. decoder; and I don’t blame them. Based on what is featured on local T.V. these days, it is no longer a luxury but a necessity to satisfy your entertainment needs by acquiring a decoder. After all, when you hustle the streets from day to night, you deserve quality relaxation at the end of it all.
Nigerian television is dead. There is no quality local content. Rather, subtitled old Mexican soaps are aired daily. These soaps were in existence even when there was solid Nigerian content, but their influence was not as strong. I still faintly remember my aunts and lil’ I, rushing to finish up in the kitchen so we won’t miss our favourite show : WILD ROSE – how can I forget Rose, Richard and the Parrot. However, we paid as much loyalty to our CHECKMATE, PALACE (Nigerian soaps) and late Mee Mofe-Damijo’s MEE SHOW. What alternatives are there now?
Let me turn my beam light on the arm vested with Nigeria’s public service broadcasting duties. Even if private stations indulge in promoting foreign content, they have a right to, as they are commercial not cultural outfits (the National Broadcasting Commission has a code on how much foreign content private stations can air). NTA, our own public service broadcaster on the other hand, is losing audience as well as opportunities to promote Nigerian culture and no one is bothered?
I have spoken to a few producers about the dearth of local content on Nigerian television, and the unanimous reason I hear is lack of enough resources. This is in terms of the fact that sponsors are not willing to take on production costs. They would rather you foot your production bills and they buy spots on the program – that itself would depend on how well your show is received by the audience. So who bears the risk? Who pays for airtime on TV that is madly expensive? No one is willing to bear the risk – so no show.
Producers are thus more willing to invest in a Nollywood one-off movie that people buy at once, cost-covered, profit-made and on to the next movie. I am not surprised that some think Nollywood is what is killing Nigerian television,but I am amused. Nollywood is what is sustaining a drama culture that could have been totally lost, but for these guys who not only invest in keeping the culture alive, and export it to the world. Nollywood has excelled where public service has failed.
Nigerian television needs may not be top priority on the list, but I believe the Nigerian government should consider investing in genuine people who can restore Nigerian television’s lost glory and image; subsidise air time rates till things stabilize and the audience is back in full force – then advertisers can take over. This path is not going to be easy. It will be a lot of work, but we need it.
I watch British television, and even though there is an influx of a American content, the television is still very British. The audience are loyal to their brands like EASTENDERS, THE OFFICE — heavens, you need to feel the excitement in their voices when they talk about these shows. Frankly, I hear the hype about Gossip Girl and America’s Next Top Model from my own local circle of friends. I know the Brits watch these Americanshows, but it’s just like the days of old that illustrated earlier – they have their alternatives. What Nigerian brand are Nigerians loyal to?
A South – African based company (top providers of the decoders) out of their good heart, have produced a few local content soaps to cater to Nigeria’s growing audience – e.g. Doctor’s Quarters and Tinsel. The rate at which viewers flock to those programs and tweet about them, tells me that there is a craving for local content, no one to fill it up.
On an endnote, I will just bring to your remembrance a few of the programs I was loyal to while growing up. I compiled this list with friends over the phone last night – it was fun listing Nigeria’s 20 top TV shows 🙂 I have also punctured the list with a few that were not for my generation. For instance, Cock Crow @ Dawn and Village Headmaster – my father talks about those a lot. I see the spark in his eyes when he does. I really wish we could bring back the days of our lives.
Here is the list in no particular order, feel free to add to them on the comment section.. cheerios
- Family Circle
- Candle Light
- Fuji House of Commotion
- This Life
- Super Story (thankfully, still on)
- Kiddie Vision 101
- Story Land
- Tales by Moonlight
- Area C
- After the Storm
- Everyday People
- Papa Ajasco
- Binta and Friends
- 4’s Company
- Twilight Zone
- I Need to Know
- Village Headmaster
- Cock Crow at Dawn
- The Masquerade
- Second chance