Those dance steps on TV stations
Lagos-based private television station, DTN, gives me evenings full of laughter. Its comedy programmes from 10:30pm to 12:00pm are my idea of how to relax after a hard day’s work. DTN’s programme promos too are okay, stating as they do day and time of first broadcast and repeat broadcast of any programme. This gives viewers the opportunity to select which day is convenient to watch the programme. It also saves one the concern about missing a useful episode, and wondering if there’ll be a repeat broadcast. Now, let’s take a few steps back into the past. On October 27, 2014, the presenter of ITV’s breakfast magazine programme was doing the work of a presenter and an analyst at the same time. He had a guest as analyst in the house, but he was sounding mostly judgmental himself, too judgmental for someone whose job was to ask questions, seeking for answers that dissected issues for viewers. The topic had been about politicians from Rivers State and how they abused one another. At exactly 8:15am, the ITV presenter was hotly making comments like, “(Rotimi) Amaechi should stop abusing the President…and PDP should stop abusing Amaechi.” The presenter should strive to lead his analyst in the direction of clarifying issues in a way that gets the viewers better informed, rather than getting carried away in the passion for the fight himself. On October 26, 2014, Charles Eruka of Channels TV, at 6:09pm, reported about Internally Displaced Persons in Akko LGA in Gombe State. He mentioned their sufferings, the children who were ill, and the need for urgent medical attention for these IDPs. The still picture accompanying this report showed a long line of people with loads on their heads. The picture had on it the words, “Gombe Refugees”, among other words. The reporter was right on that occasion in calling these people IDPs; the news editor was wrong. Nigerians who are displaced but remain in their country are IDPs, those outside our borders are refugees. The Kaduna-based Liberty TV will have to determine how it wants to be perceived by the public with respect to the quality of its reporters and reportage. I often tune in to this station during its newscasts in English Language to get a feel of what’s going on across Kaduna State. On July 13, 2016, I watched its 6pm newscast. At exactly 6:18pm, there was a report about the flooding in Zaria town that had happened on July 12, 2016. The deputy governor, Bala Bantex, was the one who visited the flood sites and this had made me pay closer attention. But the male reporter couldn’t even coherently read the report that he must have had written on paper. Nouns were wrong, and verbs were wrongly used. This is common in Liberty TV’s news sessions, and many of the errors are so obvious that even a primary school pupil would shake his head in disbelief. The quality of the editorial of its news packages in English isn’t always above average. There’re minimum criteria for recruiting reporters, and the quality of reportage to broadcast. For the moment, I don’t think Liberty TV has set minimum standard for itself. On November 5, 2014, AIT’s “Global Business” got my attention. It was because the anchor mentioned in his headlines the slash in prices of cement undertaken by Dangote Group. When it became the turn of this particular news item at 2:22pm, it didn’t live up to the introduction the anchor had given it. For me, the report wasn’t more than announcing a press release from the company concerned. This news item that every Nigerian would be interested in required more than that. The implications of this slash in price on different aspects of the economy should have been investigated and reported. AIT reporters who went to the street to ask questions should have raised different perspectives, including questions as to which competitors Dangote might likely run out of business with its price slash. None of this was done, no new insights were provided. Observers know though that through this practice, rival sugar companies had been forced to close business in the past, only for Dangote to raise prices thereafter. Prices of bags of cement that Dangote slashed to below N1,300 from N2000 at that time had now risen to between N1,500 and N1800. It may yet rise higher, leaving only Dangote on the dance floor with fewer competitors. These are issues one expects reputable media outfits to include in their reportage, especially in these days of paid TV when contents should be of highest quality. I frown on the pattern on most TV stations which sees them broadcast higher percentage of reports composed from press releases as well as events to which they have been formally invited; this to the detriment of digging up and reporting issues that companies and government agencies would ordinarily like to hide. Meanwhile, this is the direction news stations that must retain critical viewership have to go in the age of paid TV. Those that do will be the recipients of big-budget sponsored programmes and adverts in an increasingly competitive market. On October 29, 2014, on a live coverage of an event by NTA, the then President Goodluck Jonathan was in Kaduna State to inaugurate the new Government House. He stood there at the podium with a microphone in his hands that didn’t work. He kept tapping the head of the microphone to get it to work, TV camera on him from 11:02am-11:04am. Some people later took the microphone from the President, grappled with it for another four minutes before they returned it to him. I’m only wondering if any cameraman needs to continue to show the President in such an inauspicious moment. This isn’t the first time I point this out on this page. AIT’s sparkling new studio for its 8pm newscast is fine. However, I wonder why some of the station’s programme presenters freely converse with backroom staff while they are on air. Making reference to members of a production team is allowed. But I find it strange that some presenters talk directly with those behind the camera. On ‘The Money Show’, February 24, 2015, the topic was how to access the over N200bn that the government promised small scale businesses. While interviewing her guest on this day, and at exactly 11:51am, the presenter had said: “Director, can I take one more question?” There was the response, “Go ahead”. The presenter then said, “Thanks”. The presenter of ‘Focus Nigeria’ also does this regularly, talking to the backroom staff, asking whether or not a clip is ready to be aired. I think this is untidy and unprofessional. Now, I return to more recent issues. Some of us would appreciate it if Theresa May, the new Prime Minister of United Kingdom, would always dress in a manner that befits a PM. I had been seeing her in decent dresses before she showed interest in occupying 10 Downing Street. But on July 13, 2016, the day she formally became the PM, the clothes she wore, purposely showing off what a leader who’s a woman should hide, would have embarrassed not only the Queen (whom she met that day) but also the late Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Angela Merkel, and Senator Hillary Clinton. Clinton sticks to her modest dressing despite words from the so-called fashion critics who say she’s not fashion conscious because she covers herself decently. But many of us respect her for it, because what we appreciate in a woman are her talent, ability and achievement, not the nakedness she displays. I actually wanted to tune to another news station for the shock in the sudden change in May’s dressing on the day she resumed work as the PM. Her dressing that day was distracting for a prime minister whose every word her listeners wanted to pay attention – maybe that was the intention of those who cut her blouse so embarrassingly low. But I always ask: Why is it that a woman isn’t considered fashionable until she’s practically walking naked? Politicians are traditionally conservative in their dressing, and May shouldn’t forget she’s a mother and old enough to be a grandmother. With respect to what a person of her public stature should wear, her dressing in the course of her trip to Berlin to see Angela Merkel this July says it all.