18 November 2012

Nigeria: Competition Is Driving NTA to the Brink - DG


The Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) enjoyed monopoly of television broadcasting for many years. The order changed in the 90s when government liberalized the industry, throwing up competition. In this interview, the acting Director General of the NTA Alhaji Musa Maiyaki says the development has made it to look inward.

Recently, the management of NTA held a retreat at Asaba on the future of NTA, what was the fundamental issue behind that move?

Following this, since I came on board as the Acting Director General, I have been studying the whole NTA system and luckily, I have been a staff for over 30 years now and I found out that NTA in the monopolistic times is no longer the NTA from the middle 90s.

During those days, there were only the states owned TV stations, later the privately owned stations were licenced to operate. As soon as that happened our problem began; NTA's fortunes started dwindling. They started giving us stiff challenges. So when I started acting as the DG, I sat down and said to myself that it is not enough to be the largest network, television it is about content, programming and signals. We need to do something fast. Thus it became necessary to reappraise the performance of NTA, to see how we could reclaim our position, hence the retreat. For me, NTA should continue to be the dominant station, not only in programming, but also in commercial sense.

Also, we are aware that the fulcrum of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan's administration is transformation and for us, this transformation has to be encompassing. So when people assess government based on some key areas like power, roads, employment, industry etc, they tend to forget some other subsidiaries like, for instance, NTA, which also adds up to the whole transformation agenda. Therefore, we said that as a government agency, we need to add our own quota and value to the president's agenda. Candidly, I think that everybody who works for government should be thinking along this line.

So, what made the retreat different from every other one?

We invited the likes of Dr. Tom Adaba, who was a former NTA staff and later Director General of NBC. Dr. Adaba talked to us very bluntly, without hiding anything, but most of all he encouraged us and suggested how we could generate unlimited air contents.

He said we were not using our strength very well and we believed him. The current DG of NBC, Engineer Yomi Bolarinwa also opened our eyes about the challenges we are going to face in the digitization process and that is the challenge of contents. Once you are on the platform of any of the carriers, like we have NTA/Startimes, you must produce enough programmes to be relevant for 24 hours by 7 days a week. Because once viewers tune off from you as a result of poor contents, you may never reclaim them and that is already happening to NTA. Bolarinwa proffered solutions on what we can do. The next was Dr. Tonnie Iredia, you know him; he was very blunt when he was addressing us on issues pertaining to leadership and management. He talked about how we could best manage NTA and steer the ship of state. He backed up his views with intellectual theories. The next person was Mr. Uche Alibe who is a marketing researcher of note. He came to show us the position of every NTA station in the country and what we saw did not impress us. He also showed us our stations that improved in the last 2/3 years like NTA Enugu, Benin and one other. We saw everything graphically through bar charts. But we are going to do something immediately.

How are you going to use what you learned to have a different NTA?

Let me put it this way: what happened beat my imagination, because I never knew we were as challenged as we found out. We talked about contents/programming, reach, viewership, marketing, customers satisfaction etc. We told ourselves the truth that there is fire on the mountain and it is time to take action. The challenges and competition are there and we are quite comfortable with that, because we are going to swing into action after this retreat. We have all that it takes to rule the television industry and we are going to work on the mentality of the workforce. We want to reclaim our dominance in every aspect of television; we want to be the first again.

Do you think that your people were convinced about all the facts and figures against NTA, because your people, especially in the management would always feel that no matter what, people still watch NTA?

It is true that people watch NTA and this understanding is enough to encourage us to do something to move up our game, at least for the benefit of our audience, for the benefit of the government. So, I must tell you that everybody was totally convinced because all the people who diagnosed our problems were seasoned people in the industry and you can't doubt them. Moreover, you are not your own mirror. They brought data to prove what they were saying.

Are you saying you now have the magic wand to transform NTA?

Yes, so much solution. But it was also feared if we could implement them; because a lot of the recommendations border on funding, but we said even if we could implement 50%, NTA will never be the same. But for me, 50% is not enough. That is just average. You want to be an outstanding student. Therefore, I believe we can implement 80% at least and that will be very outstanding.

We have planned to constitute a committee that will from time to time monitor the implementation; and oversee the implementation of the ideas we came back with. We are going to do something while the iron is still hot, because everybody is waiting to see results. Then, those renowned names who were facilitators, they promised that intermittently, at least monthly, they are going to be coming over to see what is happening and ask questions. So you can see that we are not going to sleep and it will not be business as usual.

What do you think could be the impression of Government concerning this rebranding of NTA project?

The government knows what we are doing along this line of improving the standard of NTA. They are waiting to see the outcome of this effort and we have the full support of our minister, Mr. Labaran Maku, who has been behind us in an outstanding manner all this while. Our thinking is that once the government gets convinced about what we are doing by seeing results, it will be easier to attract support from government. But on the whole, government is waiting to see what will happen, because if you tell somebody you are going to bring down heaven for him, he is going to adopt the "siddon and wait attitude." That I think is the situation and we are not going to fail in our duties.

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