Ogola Onazi is the Director, Northern Operation of Ray Power Radio. In this interview with OMONU NELSON, she emphazises the need for a return to the good old days of broadcasting, where presenters are properly trained; and topics, thoroughly researched before coming on air for presentation.
Questions have been raised about ethical issues in today’s broadcasting. What is your take?
What I think, each station should have a standard and try to maintain that standard, in terms of professional ethics. Coming from the background we came from, we didn’t have phone-in programmes, because phones were not readily available. So, you need to do thorough research to be able to come on air. If you are not properly grounded, your listener could be a PHD holder, Professor or a professional in the field the presenter is trying to put facts across. It is very important to research, have your fact and details before you come on air as a presenter. But, I must say, it is a worrisome trend, these days that radio stations just open phone lines, and, it is the caller that is setting the agenda and determining what should be on air. Stations should be held responsible for what goes on air. If you have the maturity to handle a call-in programme, you should be able to dictate the pace and set agenda.
Secondly, stations are been licensed, aside the Television College in Jos and the FRCN training school in Shogunle, Lagos, we have more of private people and initiatives taking on training. But not much of significant training school, that one will say, you must go through this before you are taken. In our time, FRCN training school was the standard for us. You must have certification from there before you are admitted into any broadcast organisation. Gradually, we are losing the professional touch. We are having more of workers in the field. We have more of job seekers, instead of professionals, who are trained to do what they should do in the field of broadcast.
Do you think there are aspects of the enabling laws that deregulated the sector which needed to be reviewed ?
One aspect of the law that is really griping is the fact that we are a station that needs to generate funds to be able to operate. But, we are operating in an environment that the federal government stations are sharing market with us. They get subvention, we don’t. May be a little bit of twinkling of the law to enable us operate at different level could help. Sometimes, the fees that are charged for regulation can be a bit deep, in terms of businesses. The regulatory body need to look at some of their regulations, as they license more stations, they should become more liberal in some of the laws that is guiding and binding on us.
Ray Power is marking two decades of operation in Abuja, the nation’s capital, how has it been?
We are marking two decades of Ray Power Abuja. Ray Power started in 1993 in Alagbado, Lagos, but came into Abuja, on the 15 June, 1998. It’s been great. It’s been fun. It is a privilege been a part of the journey, haven’t started as a pioneer staff of Radio services, all the way from 1993, till now! Abuja has had its own ups and downs, in terms of operations. As we know, quiet a number of issues that borders on our operations. Issues such as electricity haven’t to buy diesel to operate. We have issues of manpower, not in terms of availability but getting the right crop of staff that can deliver your vision and goals, can be sometime challenging. But all the same, we try to operate around whatever circumstance we found ourselves. This is to ensure, we give to our listeners: those that are just joining us and those that have been there; to ensure that, we give them all the satisfaction that they desire, listening to Ray Power, that has set the pace and standard for broadcasting for quite a while now.
How have your programmes impacted on the lives of Nigerians?
Our programmes are designed in such a way that will give our listeners all that they desire. We have coined the word, “Infotainment”, which allowed us to give our listeners’ information, entertainment and education. So, we have tried as much as we can, to ensure our programmes cut across all the gunnery and the age group as well. But more important for us, is the ages between 16 and 45, with the pockets of other programmes that can cater for people above 45.
What are those programmes?
Programmes like the Political Platform would cater for people that are 60 years and above.
Political Platform has become a household name in Radio programming in Nigeria today. What was your target for introducing that programme?
Through feedbacks that we get through call-in, emails, we see the desire of people, wanting to hear more in certain areas. This makes us to come up with programmes that address certain issues and provide information towards this. Political Platform is one those programmes. Given the fact that, Nigeria was a young democracy, we needed people to listen to what was happening. And, we don’t just dish it out, there is little bit of analysis. We are also projecting that, if this happens, together, this is what will happen. The programme was created in essence, to guide through the democratic journey. And, we feel very honoured that Political Platform is one of the reference programmes in the station nationwide. When it started, it was Lagos station alone. It was only serving Lagos audience. Abuja later joined, when we opened Abuja station. It is a network programme. Wherever you are in Nigeria, you are able to listen to our network programmes, which also offer you Political Platform. The programme can also be listened to via live streaming. So, those outside the country can still follow us. We are helping to keep those in diaspora abreast of what is going on. While those in the country continues to be part of what is going on. Through a feedback segment, we are able to gauge the pulse of our listeners.
In the feedback segment, there is always the agitation that the time allocated for the Political Platform is grossly inadequate…
Well, in terms of programming, you could say that. But let me also drop here that we have programming in the pipeline that would allow you listen to Political Platform for close to an hour. But you may need to move from territorial broadcast unto another platform that would allowed you to listen to one hour of analysis on Political Platform. This is so that, we don’t take too much time of the terrestrial broadcast. We need to just a little bit of everything.
The status of Abuja as a non-commercial city may be affecting your market share, how have you been able to stay above waters?
There is a popular saying that, success is not about the journey to the top but the staying on top is the journey. Our strategic team don’t only look at what the listeners want to hear but, of satisfying and staying relevant in the minds of the people. It has been daunting and a bit of challenge, considering where we are coming from: been the first private radio broadcast station. When we came up, we were virtually the only ones competing with federal and state government stations. But, between then and now, you have more than 200 licensed radio stations. Definitely, if you have media-marketing budget worth 200 million, that you could get 50 million to yourself, it’s a fair deal, looking at all the radio station that have been licensed. It hasn’t been easy but we give God the glory. We have been able to stay on top because each day, we device new ways doing businesses: retaining the old clients or adding new ones to the platform. I won’t say, we are running at a profit margin that we will want to. But, we still give God the glory.
Against the backdrop of the proliferation of Radio stations, what is your unique selling point?
Our unique selling point is: as news breaks, we give it to you. I know that a lot of people wait to hear us break a news before they believe, its true. That can only happen, when you have the kind of integrity that we have set out to achieve in the past few years. We strive as much as we can to keep our ear to the ground, for news all around. And, not just delivering news but we give it a professional touch that will enable you know that you are actually listening to people who know what they are doing. We try as much as we can to reflect the Nigerian and African perspective in all our reportage.
Of recent, we start having news from your station on every hour. What informed this sudden development?
It’s part of the new innovation. We have looked at it and realise that, it doesn’t make much sense, for example, your news is read from Lagos, when the person in Abuja wants to know what’s happening on Mararaba, Kubwa Road. Radio is localized, therefore, it should operate within the ambience of where its located. So, if your listeners are not hearing news that pertains to them, it becomes an issue. To keep up with the modern times, we also decided that there is no point, waiting four hours before hearing news. If we must be on top of our game, the best way to capture it is to have news on the hour. Along with the news on the hour, we still have our major bulletin.
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