TheNTA-nisation Of Channels TV

channels tv

TheNTA-nisation Of Channels TV

Onoshe Nwabuikwu

First of all: introduction. NTA is the Nigerian Television Authority, largely federal government-owned. Once upon a time, nearly everyone in Nigeria was hooked up to NTA. Then came the deregulation of broadcasting in 1992, thank God.

On the other hand, Channels TV which began broadcasting in 1995 is owned by John Momoh as Chairman/CEO, assisted by his wife, Sola Momoh, who is vice-chairman. Never thought I’d ever use NTA and Channels TV in the same sentence. In spite of the fact that someone I know calls Channels TV ‘a glorified NTA’ or ‘a slightly better version of NTA’. Also, in spite of the fact that John Momoh is an alumnus of NTA.

I stay away from NTA as much as I can these days despite its rich source and a real treasure trove for the Come Again? section of this column. This is because NTA puts government first and journalism last. Channels TV (Dstv 254), on the other hand, ‘has a well-earned reputation as a professional establishment. Its presenters had a clear mark of excellence, standing shoulders above the competition. Winning Best TV Station for the 10th time is a testament to this. Channels TV was the station to go when you wanted unbiased objective and informed news’. This was from two years ago. Channels TV has now won the award for Best TV Station, 14 times.

If you think I was being unduly optimistic about the TV station, here’s what Channels TV says on its website about what it is set up to do: “Give an alternative medium of communication to the government-controlled media in Nigeria. Perform the role of a true watch-dog of the government and its policies and hold public officers accountable to the people”. Does this sound like the present Channels TV?

I wasn’t really interested in writing about Channels TV again; yes, again. That earlier quote was from a story I wrote for this column two years ago (February, 14 2016) titled: ‘How Not To Interview A Guest, Part 1 & 2. However, recent events have more or less compelled this write up. It began with reports that NTA, after acknowledging receipt of payment, refused to air the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar’s campaign ads. I simply waved it away. I would have been more interested in that story if there was any evidence that the broadcast watchdog, National Broadcasting Commission, would act. The NBC DG, Ishaq Modibo Kawu, was last ‘seen’ defending himself against an allegation of embezzling N2.5bn.

Then last week happened. Over 100 soldiers were killed by Boko Haram. In the process of dismissing the deaths on Channels TV’s Politics Today hosted by Seun Okinbaloye, Femi Adesina reportedly claimed countries around the world usually don’t release the names of dead soldiers, or implied words to that effect. Foreign journalists began to disprove Adesina’s claims almost immediately. Even at that, I shrugged Adesina’s comments off. This is Femi Adesina we are talking about, the man who has a collection of greatest hits such as Wailing Wailers, among others.

However, by Tuesday, the story was different. There were claims that Adesina’s interview uploaded online had been edited to remove the controversial parts. Now, this is a new low for Nigeria’s supposedly best TV station. I am not surprised about the station trying to outdo NTA as a better promoter of the government, contrary to their mission statement. I first called Channels TV out two years ago when Maupe Ogun-Yusuf had an interview with the NCP’s Mark Onovo. She sounded like the militant press arm of the ruling party. Once in a while, I notice the presenters remember they are supposed to be journalists. I see the struggle. It must take extra power for them to dumb themselves down, the way they do, week in, week out, and interviewee after interviewee.

Imagine a Festus Keyamo comes on your show crowing about all kinds of achievements and you, the interviewer, has to have a conversation like you live on the moon and only just stepped in for that interview. And just how scary the Nigeria Police gets when they decide to prove they know the law. You should see Channels TV guys when the guest is an ‘opposition’ politician. The other day, when Mustapha Chike-Obi was a guest on Sunrise Daily, Chamberlain Usoh and Nneota Egbe couldn’t ask him questions fast enough. For this reason, I’m willing to concede that perhaps, just perhaps, Channels TV deserves their title of Best TV Station, after all. All that hard work! The question should be: ‘Best TV Station in Nigeria,’ For what? Doctoring videos?

Just before concluding this piece, I decided to watch Sunrise Daily just in case something had changed. Immediately after the review, the next guest that was promoted was Garba Shehu, who is the better half of the presidential Aki and Pawpaw Show. No, I didn’t wait to find out what he said.

I don’t blame presidential media aides for doing their job, the way they understand it. But I blame journalists for not doing their own jobs.

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