For three weeks in November last year till early December, I spent quality time on vacation in parts of the United Kingdom with my longest stay in London. I took time off my rest to interact meaningfully with some members of the ever-growing Nigerian community in London, and an important aspect of these interactive sessions done in very convivial and relaxed atmosphere was to sound them out on their impressions regarding the publicly-owned television conglomerate - the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) which most of them receive via satellite on a popular television station based in London - Ben Television.
Ben Television is a black and ethnic-oriented urban, diverse and cosmopolitan family channel, established for the specific purpose of providing what the owner called a "wholesome mix of entertainment, educative and informational programmes suitable for family viewing".
What the owners considered as setting the Ben TV apart from other channels is its positive general black-oriented, youthful and diverse cultural-educational programming format along with its enlightening current affairs shows which serve to throw light on issues plaguing the African-Carribeans and the African continent especially through its major content scheduling in Nigeria. Ben TV reaches about 10 million homes in the United Kingdom and around the world where satellite and digital receptions are accessible.
Ben TV collaborates, according to findings, with Africa's foremost private television stations, through their international feeds, which provide the station with new programmes for its Nigerian and African audiences.
On their impressions of the performance and programme content of Nigeria's NTA, my interviewees said what they enjoy most about the Nigerian Television Authority is the 9p.m prime time network news.
About a dozen persons spoken to were of the opinion that there is now a fundamental shift of focus of the NTA from being the conservative mouthpiece of government officials to extensively broadcasting developmental and human interest stories that cover broad spectrum of the ways and manners Nigerians make progress in the human global community.
Mr. Segun Martins, Miss. Edith Obioma and Mr. Abdulkaren Suleiman who clearly expressed their delight at the major shift of emphasis of the Nigerian Television Authority also were of the opinion that the NTA management in the last three years have brought a lot of professionalism to bear in the operations of the station.
Alhaji Usman Magawata recently retired as Director General of NTA after eventful tenure and handed over power to the current Acting Director General Alhaji Musa Mayaki who pundits believe has taken the NTA to greater heights following the beautiful achievements of his predecessor in office.
Mr. Segun Martins stated thus; "I have stayed in Britain for ten years now and I have monitored developments from Nigeria on the Nigerian Television Authority and I can tell you that we are proud of the new changes that we are witnessing now. With the passage of the Freedom of Information Act in 2011 by the National Assembly and the signing into law of the FOI Act of 2011 by President Jonathan, NTA has become the proud voice of the people of Nigeria."
They however challenged NTA to further dedicate more time to investigative stories on areas such as government anti-corruption crusade and other human interest stories such as social and organized crimes in parts of Nigeria with a view to helping the law enforcement agencies to combat these crimes and make Nigeria investor-friendly.
These Nigerians abroad particularly expressed worry that the Dana plane crash of Sunday June 3, 2012 involving flight 992 MC Donnel Douglas MD-83 aircraft was not professionally covered by the NTA, even as some of them said such blunder should not happen again.
NTA which is a government-owned public broadcaster with a mandate to inform, entertain and educate the populace has however undergone series of transformations. These innovations which were introduced by the management is the reason for the new kind of optimism and patriotism among most Nigerians abroad who still stay tune to the prime time news programme at 9p.m daily.
The realization by the management that a multi-channel environment requires automation to be effective and efficient, it immediately installed a suite of broadcast automation software and hardware known as wonder cube. Specifically, wonder cube is a suite of software applications meant to computerize and automate various aspects of the television broadcasting chain.
The NTA wonder cube system consists of a six channel automatic play out system, newsroom computer system, a media asset management and archiving system, a compliance recording system and an ingest system. NTA is also preparing the framework for the eventual switch over/migrate to the digital broadcasting system by 2015.
The totality of my interactions with about one dozen Nigerians in the United Kingdom is that they are positively expecting the current management at the Nigerian Television Authority to achieve its long-term plan which is to deliver television to the populace through terrestrial, mobile and IPTV platforms and offer a wide variety of choice of local programmes.
--Onwubiko is the Head, Human Rights Writers' Association of Nigeria