Africa’s first television station celebrates 60 years of existence

Olubunmi Osoteku, Ibadan 


Diamond Anniversary Colloquium has been held to mark the establishment of Africa’s first television station, Western Nigerian Television, WNTV with the theme, ‘Sixty Years of Television in Africa: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, held at the International Conference Centre, University of Ibadan, Ibadan.’ 

While delivering a keynote address at the event  held in Ibadan, Oyo state capital, Professor Ayobami Ojebode said the future of television was bright based on existing stiffer competition that would likely lead to improved quality and relevance of programmes.

The celebration was put together by the Foundation for Ibadan Television Anniversary Celebration (FITAC) in collaboration with the Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy (ISGPP).

Professor Ojebode, the Head, Department of Communication and Language Arts, University of Ibadan, traced the history of television in Africa and also summed up the technology, programming and viewership of television in the past, as it is now and as it would likely be in the future.

“In the old order, the medium, television, was king. In the current order, the audience is king. In the coming order, content will be king. Television stations that have turned themselves into the photo albums and e-diaries of their state governors will have to repent or perish in the coming order,” he said.

Professor Ojebode stated that the purpose of television, as envisioned by Chief Obafemi Awolowo, was for it to be a means of mass education, “a medium of mass information and instruction…which will make our great country even greater and not to function as a source of entertainment. 

“If we want a television that will make our country greater than it is now, we must explore the television of experience, one that scrutinises the audience through large data analyses, and seeks to meet the audience where they are.”

The Executive Vice-chairman of Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy, Professor Tunji Olaopa said that the celebration was to reflect on the strides and the part played by TV and broadcasting, and to chart a new way forward as Nigeria is being positioned to become a true leading country.

The Chairman of Ibadan Television Anniversary Celebration, Ambassador Yemi Farounbi said it is good to talk about history, recount what has been, identify one’s strengths and weaknesses and based on that, look at what is being done today to move towards tomorrow.

“To see how we can have better television that will elevate and uplift the values of our people, open our people to the outside world and will be a window for the outside world to see us. So it is a movement, what has it been? What it is? And what it should be?” Farounbi stated.

The colloquium also witnessed the contributions of guest speakers such as Dr Tokunbo Awolowo-Dosunmu, the daughter of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who was represented by Dr Lasisi Olagunju, the Editor of Sunday Tribune.

Awolowo-Dosunmu who spoke from the perspective of the consumer traced the history of television from 1959 to 2009, x-rayed how far TV has grown, what is being done to maintain TV’s integrity and advocated the security of TV and TV archival materials.

Another guest speaker, Yomi Bolarinwa, former Director General (DG) of the Nigeria Broadcasting Commission (NBC), spoke about the media in Nigeria, where it stands with and without regulation, the evolution of TV in Nigeria’s southwestern states and the era of self-regulation, despite the NBC, among other issues.

The Director General of the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission, Mr Seye Oyeleye spoke about the effect of TV on socio-economic development and the decline in content quality.

He suggested that issues like education, socialisation and political mobilisation, promotion of history and culture, should be put into consideration when developing TV content.

A discussion panel was also held during the colloquium as moderated by Ademola Dasylva, a professor of African and Oral literature, with Deji Haastrup, a thoroughbred broadcast  professional and Dr Tunde Adegbola, a scientist and culture activist, as panelists.

The panelists discussed how to create an enabling environment to map out a vision for the future by the leaders, how to retrieve lost historic moments of TV and how to engage in positive content and reportage, concluding that the poor content on TV is a reflection of the society, and using unitary system instead of federalism cannot facilitate progress.

At the end of the colloquium, a communique was presented which states that knowledgeable, focused and visionary leadership was available in the Western Region and that made TV possible but brings the question that where we are today speaks volumes about the kind of leadership we have in Nigeria.

It also says, WNTV became a pacesetter that set development agenda, not only for other regions but for the rest of Africa; WNTV thrived on the remarkable commitment of the leadership to the provision, the maintenance of technical infrastructure, human resource management and development, including training, making it to become the base material sources for other stations that came after.

The first television service in Africa, Western Nigerian Television (WNTV), was formally launched by the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, 60 years ago, on October 31, 1959.


Mercy Chukwudiebere