Growing up all around Nigeria, one sure memory I have continued to keep is that of holding on to my father's variants of radio sets (gramophones, JVC, Sanyo, National,Trident amongst other transistor radios).
I never spared any chance in tuning into the next available station which was airing the next most interesting piece. The truth is that it sometimes never mattered even if it was a language I didn't understand that was the one used on the given station. I just listened and listened away (sometimes till I fell asleep).
For those of you wondering what era it is that I am talking about, it is the era during which at first there was no dedicated music station in the whole of Nigeria and then there came the first FM station which was followed by another and then another. As at 2012, the count of just music centric radio stations in Nigeria alone had climbed to over two hundred and of course, still counting.
Fast forward to our contemporary time; we have an unprecedented number of radio stations in Nigeria than there were in the whole of Africa back in the 1960's and yet there seems to be less coverage of development issues. You then wonder if we are moving forward in reality or just in activities and projects?
Wahtever your answer turns out to be, the truth remains that we live in an age where there is abundance in information and yet a somewhat drop in knowledge compared to the times past and the level of information there were exposed to then.
During a road trip around the middle belt of Nigeria sometime this year, I paid particular attention and kept looking at the various economic activities that were happening along the roads. You may be surprised to hear that I discovered after speaking with a local researcher on small informal business holdings that the overwhelmed orange and other fruits seller in Makurdi, the Yam seller alongWukari/Donga, the palm wine/ginger seller along Kwoi/Keffi road, the Palm oil re-seller along Suleja-Abuja road, the Chiken frying women in Saminaka, the fresh tomatoes and Potatoe seller in Bokkos/Riyom in Plateau state amongst many others actually do account for a multi billion naira fraction of our nations economy.
Then I wondered to myself, how come we in the broadcast media rarely ever cover the stories of this business persons where its not that of pestilence, squalor and frustrations arising from failed government policies and politics? I asked myself as a professional designer/creator of broadcast programming content, could it be that our listeners and viewers don't consider anything associated to these fellow countrymen trying to earn a living as interesting? Or is it that we have decided on our own as content providers that it isnt worth it?
Whatever our answers turn out to be, one thing I have come to realise is that there is no story that isn't worth telling. What counts is the audience that is in question. Funny enough, the one fact of our jobs which we often fail to remember is that you cant be judge and jury; hence we cant be producers and audience at the same time (even though we need to carry out post postmortems on our content often). Fundamentally, we need to allow the audience to decide what they love by giving them a wide variety to choose from.
Having said the above, let me just proceed to share with you my conviction as the whole of my thoughts are directed at achieving. When we broadcast and development isn't at the centre of it, then we are significantly just making faces in the dark (only us can tell what we are doing).
It is my believe that time has come whereby we need to look beyond our profit making motives in broadcasting and start finding ways to contribute our role in nation building and the uplifting of human standards of living amongst our people.
Having worked on both sides of the divide (private and public broadcast), I can tell you that it is very difficult to achieve a balance in reporting developmental issues irrespective of whatever side you are on. For the public media broadcaster, you have to deal with covering up issues and "exposing" government ineptitude or lack of care or lack of living up to fundamental roles. While for those in private media, the daily "hustle" is to deal with giving airtime to issues that are not "money generators".
My final analysis of the situation is that we need to do more planning in order to achieve a desired level in broadcasting for development. The following are some helpful steps to follow:
1. All broadcasters should first seat with their team of staff and understand what is happening around their immediate environment and take deliberate steps to following up issues.
2. All journalist in the team should first realise that they are like the proverbial Christian as depicted in the bible "being in the world and yet not of the world". This is on the back drop of the expectation that journalist are expected to stay objective and not be involved sentimentally in the stories they report (meaning when reporting lack of good roads in your area, you must be able to detach yourself from the emotional side of things, etc, etc).
3. Each station needs to realise the trend of citizen participation in the reportage of affairs as concern them and then take advantage of the various social media platforms to generate content in reporting development around them.
4. Once a premium is placed on the sanctity of human life in any community, you will soon start to see that broadcast journalist and fellow country men will start to ask fundamental questions whenever something happens to any human being in that community that i considered not right. This will perhaps end what has come to be referred to as "life being very cheap in the developing world". People will then stop thinking it is normal for roads to be bad and unrepairable, that it is is normal for hospitals to be without drugs and doctors and no one is held liable, that security is in the hands of "God" and other spiritual deities and not in the hands of those who have sworn to protect its citizens.
5. All broadcasters should stop seeing it that they are doing a favour to a group of persons who are disadvantaged but are carrying out a fundamental role of our noble profession by giving fair and acurate coverage to issues of development.
I can go on and on to list the basis for why we should make reporting development a key role, but it must begin with us as individual broadcasters and then as corporate entities before we can make the long desired difference. It is no longer an option that we have to increase coverage for developmental issues, but we all as broadcasters must come to a realisation that our very own professional continual existence is dependant on how relevant we are considered to be.
In this age and time when it is "us" (conventional journalist) versus citizen journalism, I only do hope that we don't drive ourselves into non relevance and thereafter oblivion.