CBS CEO Leslie Moonves and his experience with the Nigerian media.
My experience coming here. As a start-up specialist. Since the end of the 1980s I have done a half and a dozen travels, the biggest of which is Aljazera English. I put together Aljazera English. When I left, I had to spend six years in Qatar. When I was approached to come to Lagos. I came here with some trepidation, when I resigned from East Africa.
Nigeria has always been viewed as lacking that character of Africa, but when the chairman approached me, he laid out his vision for a Pan African channel not with only Nigerian interest, but with stations across Africa and Europe, its probably too tempting. So I greed to go ahead with that and in many ways its far more satisfying than Aljazera, because there we poached staff from top broadcast stations like, CNN, SKY, RTN, BBC etc, but here we actually had to train everybody up from scratch, because we couldn’t bring in outsiders because the whole concept of this is an African channel by Africans for Africans.
Huge amount of training
And it was difficult taking people from the national broadcast station, because we wanted to take younger people and train them up. Of course we had to berth with morals of NN24, that is a small pool of journalists we had a lot of huge amount of training here. We are proud of what we have achieved, because we had a lot of fantastic product which can go up against virtually any international channel, another thing I really appreciate working here, is that is the kind of freedom of the media you got here. It’s a kind of wonderfully noble open environment for the media, you are free to criticise as well as praise. I was in Russia in December 2015, for the 10th anniversary of Russia today, if you look at the screen its very sleek and the rest of it and what shocked me in Russia is how everything is entirely controlled, every television, radio, newspaper, the internet is incredibly entirely controlled, there is no media free freedom there at all, its quite embarrassing. And I think Nigeria is very fortunate to have that (press freedom) it is a saving grace of the country.
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Managing a Media House
It’s a kind of delegation really. First thing I can allege to coming to Nigeria is that people single handly want to make decisions. Most organisations in Nigeria seem to be structured in a kind of pyramid, decisions are taken at the top echolon. What we try to do here is to have a much flatter organisation. Every departmental head was made to be responsible for that department and has to make decisions. So that persons wouldn’t come with problems, but solutions. They have to take decisions themselves, as long as they are taking the right decision, no one expects anyone to go turn after turn over decisions. When I came here, there seemed to be the fear of making one long decision so that you don’t get yourself muddled up. Here, we have introduced a successful plan of departmental responsibility and you know if you get the right tunes the organisation keeps going.
Training and contingencies
Other things we try to do is to be inclusive. We try to live by example. We try to keep people informed all the time. We try and have a town hall meeting regularly. I think its about keeping people motivated. Like any news channel, it’s difficult commercially, we knew that its going to take some years to break even. When you are together, and if those people (owners) understand why certain things are happening, you take them along. Rather than dictating, saying do this, do that, you need to understand why they are doing what they are doing. We stop at nothing. We have tried to be inclusive without very comprehensive retrial policies, without going overseas. We try and reward people as well.
CBS and digital switch over
Digital switchover has many advantages over analogue. Programme presentation will be well improved by the time analogue is over. These are true in terms of clarity and quality of signals and spectrum efficiency. On that, we are fully High Definition, HD here. We are HD compliant already. Like I said earlier if you need data, it’s available. We have been sending out digital test signals. We are pretty ready for the digital switchover.
That is a complex question. The only issue I have with the kind of regulations in Nigeria is the concept of monopoly stipulated when it comes to news. I don’t think in other places it actually exists. I don’t think I should be forced to subscribe to a particular channel. You don’t do that in UK. I am not forced to subscribe to Sky in Uk, if I don’t want to.
Regulation and content
Within Nigeria, we get materials from agencies. We do out source program making. We use production companies for some of our programmes, that is pretty normal, all other things we do television coverage. Broadcasters interest and content I think the news side is very important, because its so important African viewers can have the news from their own perspective. What is also very important is that we have a window to celebrate our country’s environmental issues, with the youth culture, current programmes, environmental health, and women issues. And this is because there are two things, one because it’s educational, the second is because if we did just news it wouldn’t have caught interest.
What I have found here is not just a pan-African mindset for news. However, what is current are those very issues I have just mentioned, things in the environment. You and Mozambique have the same problems. Health, you have the same problems, this is what we have to do across the continent, this is one of the reasons we have constructed the program. Broadcasters are going to enjoy an era of cost effectiveness with digital broadcasting. This is because a station can carry up to four channels on the same frequency. Also digital programme production will be flexible and faster. Again stations may generally rely on syndicated programmes because the digitization process encourages equal opportunities that will result in healthy competition. Consequently this will delineate content, multiplexing and transmission.
Penetrating African countries
We are trying to get many partners as possible, as I said earlier, because of the variety of issues like the telecom industry and capacity building. We are now on to the DSTV platform. We are on other platforms also. For example, in East Africa, StarTimes, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia, we are building our network there, but clearly DSTV is a deep partner for us. We don’t want to be exclusive to DSTV alone. We want to reach as many outlets as we possibly can.
What’s happening is this. Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation, NBC has actually departmentalised all the chain value, that if you are a channel provider you cannot be a channel distributor, and if you are a channel distributor you cannot be a channel integrator. And you don’t have anything to do with the boxes distribution. The problem of spectrum actually is being solved by the move from analogue to digital, because right now if you are at home if you switch on your television at least four channels around you, but with digitalisation you can have on a single box, you can have about 120 channels on a single box. And the beauty of what is going at the moment is that the box that is coming is quite a revolution, because, one, its going to solve the problem of ratings that we have been having, right now to know the number of people that is watching one programme and at what time and for how long will be done by diary, specific people are selected and they have to mark on the book the number of people that watched this program today, which is analogue. The box that is being sold today by CCML right now has the audience measurement capacity, so if you switch on your television it will records the time that you were watching and how long you are watching it. And not only that it also has two bunggles at the back, the first one is for video on demand, whereby all those nollywood actors, their first movie, people can actually demand for it and store it on the buggle and watch it when they want. And the other buggle actually is for internet, so it’s quite a revolution so the question of non availability of spectrum is now solved by moving to digital transmission.