Daily Trust (Abuja)

22 June 2008

Nigeria: 13 Radio Stations Battle for Supremacy

Lagos — "Good morning Nigeria, Good morning Lagos. You're tuned to your number one Independent Radio, Ray Power 100.5 FM station broadcasting from Ilapo village here in Alagbado."

Such voice and presentation usually come on air every Monday till Friday 13 years ago by ace broadcaster, Steve Efosa Kadiri, one of the pioneer staff of Ray Power FM radio station that started independent broadcast in the country. When the station hit the airwaves over a decade ago, it suddenly became the toast of listeners of radio stations across Lagos.

Besides Ray Power, other FM stations including Rhythm 93.7, Eko FM and Star FM 101.5 FM from the stables of Murhi Broadcasting Organisation have added glamour to independent broadcasting occasioned by the deregulation of the industry by the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC).

Daar Communications deserves the unenviable as the pathfinder of modern broadcasting in the Nigerian context. Before the liberalisation of the broadcasting industry, only Radio Nigeria 2 which operates from Martins street in the heart of Lagos Island beside Marina existed. Listeners were already searching for Alternative when NBC in what appeared to be a birthday gift to stakeholders in the industry, issued licenses to private practitioners. Daar Communications, owners of Ray Power and African Independent Television (AIT) were the first beneficiaries as they took over the air-waves.

Interestingly, the pioneer staff of Ray Power like Tony Akhiotu, Ladi Lawal, Steve Kadiri and few others were at different times engaged by Radio Nigeria.

Daar Communication set the tone for emerging independent FM stations in Lagos and the country as a whole because without its pioneering and innovative programmes, the dividends of deregulation of the broadcast industry would have taken far longer time to harvest.

Realising that some of the listeners are essentially remnants of the old school, and realising also that FM stations by design are music oriented, Daar Communications set up a sister station, Ray Power 2, in collaboration with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in London.

Unlike other FM stations, Ray Power 2 is a talk station with music interlude from the days of highlife and calypso. Everyday during the week, Ray Power 2 hooks on to the BBC for update on sports from across the world. The station is at its best whenever it hooks on to BBC for the foreign station's news time on Africa continent.

When the wind of change began blowing in the broadcast industry, Radio Nigeria moved with the changing time and transformed its name to Metro FM transmitting on 93.5 bands. However, some of the old programmes like Masculine Line, Melody Lane were consigned to the dust bin of history due to lack of sponsorship and brain drain bug that caught up with the premier station.

Across the length and breadth of Lagos today, there is indeed a harvest of Frequency Modulated Bands popularly called FM radio. Counting by our reporter showed that there are 13 such FM stations (apart from the Paramount FM station in Abeokuta that could be heard loud and clear in any part of Lagos). Listeners in and around the mega city now have variety of programmes to meet their yearnings for excellent programmes.

There is the Cool FM and Rhythm FM radio operating from high brow Victoria Island . The station has a unique style of presentation that would make the listener feel as if he or she had tuned to the BBC or the Voice of America (VOA). However, like most of the FM stations in the city, they are basically entertaining stations in concept of programme design. The owner of the station has recently introduced Wa-zo-bia FM station to take care of listeners in Lagos who like pidgin English presentation.

Of course, the owner of Rhythm FM is a mixed breed, thus the management under the Bruce dynasty could easily grab an award as 'psychedelic' station ostensibly from the music on air. Although it has a music segment for the old school daily, the large part of air time is devoted to playing high voltage and digitalized music. So far, it is only Rhythm FM station that does a musical background in its news presentation.

Another in the new generation of FM radio stations in Lagos is Star101.5 FM, the sister company of Muhri International Television (MiTV). Located in Ikeja and very close to the seat of Lagos State government at Alausa, the Star FM station has devoted much of its air time on Yoruba programmes for the benefit of majority of the population in the city. From 1:00pm or thereabout, the station engages in drilling listeners on the virtues of old school music. It shares location with the Eko FM station belonging to the state government and the newly introduced Unity FM radio station owned by associates of the former governor of Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu.

Other new generation FM radio stations based in Lagos are the Bond FM, Brilla FM owned by the ace Sports journalist, Larry Izamuje. Brilla FM focuses mainly on sports and music.

There is also the Choice FM station from the stable of Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) and the University of Lagos (Unilag) FM station that is more of community radio as its broadcast capacity does not go beyond Akoka community where the institution is located and the neighbouring communities.

Meanwhile, there has been "war" on the airwaves in Lagos as all the FM radio stations strive to outwit one another towards getting more listeners and advertisements which is the backbone for survival in the industry.

A member of Independent Producers Association of Nigeria (INTERPAN), Shoaga Bodunrin said the more there are FM stations in the city, the merrier particularly for the independent producers. He said increase in the number of the stations will give room for thorough competition whereby the listener and whoever wishes to place advertisement will have choices to make.

According to him, the quality of some programmes being dished out to listener by the stations leaves much to be desired. "Listening to some of the programmes from all indications will tell you that they were hurriedly packaged. So, we need more radio stations in Lagos because the market is there, listeners are there and there would be stiff competition among the stations for listeners to get the best," he argued.

Bodunrin argued that it appeared the deregulation has only feathered the nest of people he described as moneybags who have the money to set up the radio stations but lack rudiments of broadcasting.

He complained that one of the many challenges facing the industry is the fact that many of the presenters are poorly remunerated.

"This is not auguring well towards nurturing and sustaining the services of veteran broadcasters," he mused.

A trainee broadcaster at Choices FM Training School at the Government Reserved Area (GRA), Ikeja, Miss Adefola Toyin said there is a bright light at the end of the tunnel because, according to her, "survival of the FM stations in Lagos is a question of who the cap fits."

In her opinion, the deregulation has helped people like her to have somewhere to turn to after graduation from university saying there is high level of unemployment in the country.

"If anything else, the deregulation has exposed the creative instincts of our indigenous producers and presenters, and it has enabled someone like me to look forward to taking a career in broadcasting," she said.

To listeners of numerous private FM and television stations too, variety is the spice of their living in the over crowded city.

In the mean time, the airwaves are agog with music, variety of programmes and breaking news from the juke box in a frequency modulated style with its distinctive and highly computerized system.

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