Television production can be defined as the creation, development, production, management and distribution of commercially innovative and original TV content and properties across multiple delivery platforms and channels. An individual or company may well supply a blend of content and associated services to its customers, clients and broadcasters. Today this includes also the opportunities the telecommunication industry presents to content providers.
When I first got involved in TV production in Nigeria many years back broadcast content was mainly produced by broadcasters for their own channels, there was minimal independent production in the country and this was mainly focused on TV commercials and the odd drama production. That has changed and over the years many local independent producers have started creating, developing and producing content off the back of sponsors who seeking customized solutions of high quality to leverage their brands commission these independent producers. More recently in the broadcast channels sector this role has mainly fallen to the likes of MNET and to a lesser extent Hi TV who see the need and viability of commissioning local independent producers to generate content, viewers and advertising revenue for their channels. Local broadcasters are yet to develop business models that make this type of commissioning possible; creating products that deliver viewers and advertising through commissioning their own proprietary content. The inability and short-sightedness of local channel owners to develop business models that enable the commissioning of Independent production for their channels remains a strategic roadblock to the development of the Nigerian TV Industry. How local broadcasters, especially those in the terrestrial domain innovate and react to this dilemma in their business models is something that should give all Nigerian independent producers sleepless nights.
Today we can still categorize our local TV industry as still at an emergent stage, no doubt it has significant potential to develop on a global and local scale, however this can only occur if producers, individuals, stake-holders, government, sponsors, broadcasters, financial institutions and Nigerian companies who have invested in the industry start to take the issues that are gradually eroding this potential seriously. The danger to this potential is multifarious and can be viewed through the binoculars of the massive influx of international production companies into Nigeria, who either working independently or with Nigerian partners have started to exploit these potentials to their benefits mainly to the detriment of core Nigerian investors in the sector; the potential can also be viewed through the international recognition of Nollywood despite its creative challenges, the artistic and technical excellence of Nigerian Music videos; the desire of Nigerian professionals to develop the industry. It can also be viewed through the improvement in many locally produced independent productions and the increase in the creative scope and depth of many Nigerians returning to Nigeria to involve themselves in the industry and drive growth of the industry.
However, Government and industry leadership is still failing in its duty to the local industry through its incapacity to monitor, regulate, manage and determine policies that grow and develop the local industry to its full potential. This incapacity is leaving a gaping hole, which many are taking advantage of to the detriment of Nigerian Investment in the industry. Shamefully this hole is also being aided by Nigerians who’s stake in the industry is merely ephemeral and based only on financial out-take. In local parlance, aided by Nigerians who are ready to call a cow a brother because they want to eat meat. What this means, is that the vision of pioneers of local independent TV production to grow the local industry could stop the initial impetus dead in its track, much like the Nigerian textile industry where the local economy became extinct in an environment where government policy was weak and regulation non existent, it sealed the eventual extermination of a key industry that employed millions of Nigerians. One can imagine a Nigerian media terrain where there is no effort to instill policies and regulate the industry. Where laws of the country are being broken daily because of our inability to regulate and ensure compliance with rules that govern working in Nigeria. This in itself would be a security risk in any country worth its salt if the importance of a vibrant TV and Media industry were regarded as critical and an economic essential.
But this is not a tirade against foreign TV producers and their companies, far from it; the issues are far more serious than that. The basics have to be addressed first from ground up, and not top down. We first must get our act in order. Locally we are at a stage where our local TV industry has not defined the best creative standards, processes, procedures competencies, technical parameters and professional ethics; processes and procedures which lifts the industry to a pivotal high, which guarantee a secure role for the television industry in the development of the national economy and society, thereby creating huge employment opportunities, revenues and taxable incomes. Moreover, creating a respect that is hinged on thorough professionalism and skill.
Our environment, culture and heritage inspire great creative energy and an open production canvas enabling it to making significant economic contributions to Nigeria and its people. This is reflected in the diverse and emerging creative economy which encompasses flagship events such as Star Mega Jam, BOP TV, MAMA’s, Hip Hop Awards, The Future Awards, Calabar Festival, Black Heritage Week, AFRICAST etc; you only have to look as far as independent investments in production facilities by Nigerian owned companies such as IBST Limited, Ultima Studios, Jungle Films, AVF, Optima Studios etc; the programmes which are now being produced by local TV production companies and film makes; the private broadcast sector of private TV stations like AIT’s, Channels, Silverbird TV and its cinema chains, Cable operators like MNET, Hi TV and the new venture between NTA and a Chinese Cable operator; film professionals such as Peter Igho, Danladi Bako, Kunle Afolayan, Jetta Amata, Austin Eruka, Tunde kelani , Amaka Igwe, Zeb Ejiro, Kinglsey Ogoro, Tade Ogidan and many more, and not to mention the large amount of small businesses and freelancers working in film, television, radio and publishing; and micro- businesses and sole traders working in arts and crafts that service the TV industry.
In right thinking societies creative industries’ are increasingly recognized as an important stimulus for economic growth, bringing highly skilled, high value jobs, and benefiting associated sectors. I believe Nigeria can build a competitive advantage as a place for creative industries and businesses. By paying attention to the needs, challenges and potentials of the industry, a coalition of government and private sector initiative can bring significant gains to the table as there is scope to build on these intrinsic strengths to achieve further economic development and business growth. In addition, supporting a vibrant creative sector will have positive impacts on the perception of Nigeria as a place to live, work, and collaborate, despite the many infrastructural challenges, which exist. This is the kind of rebranding we should be focusing on as a society, in which a Government considers the economic impact of a vibrant and well-structured TV industry.
My past and current experiences as a professional in the TV industry in Nigeria; having made quantifiable investments of rigor, finance, labor and many mistakes in the past 25 years, I believe gives me the platform to engage by colleagues and stake holders. I hope that my passion, and experiences will enable me to contribute my own quota by setting out a strategic approach that I hope will be considered by professionals alike with the sole aim to stimulate the financial sector and other key stake-holders to support the continued growth of the creative industry sector and initiate some forward movement to a process that will enhance the TV industry in Nigeria. We need to focus and not chase shadows. Foreign TV production companies who work in Nigeria without work permits and who do not abide by the laws of the country are not the problem, they are the symptoms on a local TV industry that has lost its soul. We have lost direction and need to quickly get back on the right track by focusing on ACTIONS that will regenerate the industry. This requires deep thinking, and realizing it’s not a short-term dosage of adrenalin, but a sustained, well structured and managed plan, which attracts and maintains the interest of everyone in the industry.
Hopefully I will give us all something to think about and even more importantly I hope I will be able to provide a framework for liaison with businesses, intra business co-operation, the fostering of development support from local and national organizations, leading industry-led collaboration and initiatives, and drawing in additional investment to support the sector. That is what I believe a professional organization like ITPAN should have as its goal.
I have decided to call it a ‘Nigeria TV Production Initiative Strategy’ which is a economic regeneration strategy for the local Nigerian TV Industry with a focus on TV content and production, which I hope at some time can be further developed into an integrated strategy and policy within the framework of our national communication, broadcast, creative and culture policies
The Vision is to create an independent sector that is internationally recognized; a creative community characterized by vibrant and economically strong creative output; and a sector, which receives Government stimuli through proper policies, implementation, protection and subsidies.
It is also a stimulus package geared towards the many professional bodies of the industry, Government and business entrepreneurs who are interested in investing in the television industry in Nigeria. The questions and issues are many, but in interrogating where we are today and what we need to do we can re-direct our efforts towards the right issues.
One of the main thrusts of this discourse is how ownership of the Nigerian Media and TV industry is gradually being eroded, and how investment in important and strategic aspects of the TV industry are gradually being commercially exploited by off-shore investors, companies, producers and owners who have the expertise, but critically, also the access to international funding to the detriment of Nigerian Businessmen and investors in the sector, who are not supported by their local financial institutions and policies. These investments from off shore where interest payments are low and where home government support is high, is simply because these investments buoy up their local economies and businesses, making them more agile and viable for competitive advantage. More specifically because the media and TV are critical aspect of a nations culture and disposition, leaving these important aspects of national pride and culture without control, regulations and actual implementation of a road map to make local TV production companies competitive as well, is not the way forward in the long term, though there are signs that has become the norm today. We should all be in state of comatose if we realize where we are, and what this means to local production companies
With the help of neo-colonial thinking Nigerian Managers and executives who do not see anything wrong in out sourcing work to other economies, though some Nigerian companies have the expertise and skills, one can understand some of the challenges we face. It would seem that this is mainly out of prejudice against their own and their inability to see how their actions actually destroy Nigerian businesses, their own economy and people. However, it is not. Every businessman wants value for their money and if this where they recognize value, so be it. It’s their money. In the long term though Nigerian TV production companies must be able to offer comparative quality and creativity. Thinking that we can legislate and force business policies that discriminate against foreign production companies is a misnomer. We can demand that our laws are respected, but in the long run we must make ourselves relevant through our skills and product.
The free market economy we practice has its advantages, and despite the inflow of off-shore investment, there is a need to look and understand how policies, regulation and business decisions work together to affect the long-term outlook for the Nigerian TV industry and Nigerians who have invested in the sector. It is not enough to complain about the encroachment of the Nigerian space by foreign TV production companies, what is key is developing a strategic framework and road map that we can use to ask the right questions and provide the appropriate answers.
The questions are:
• How do we grow and develop a Nigerian TV Industry where Nigerian owners and investors are encouraged and protected as a national policy?
• What do we need to do to assist creation and growth of Nigerian owned TV industry businesses and the generation of more commercially viable local content?
• How can we encourage and manage creative individuals and businesses to seek investment from a financial sector that understands the business better than they do now?
• What do we need to do to promote Nigeria as a creative place at national and international forums and seek for international out sourced projects?
• How can we increase the number of employment opportunities in the sector for Nigerians?
• How can we engage and dialogue with local broadcasters to invest in commissioning
local programming and evolving a viable business model that places emphasis on content and scheduling that delivers good revenues and great viewership
• How can we increase the overall economic contribution of the sector to the Nigerian economy, thereby acquiring greater recognition?
• How do we seek ways to provide appropriate business support mechanisms, and promoting access to funding to support business growth?
• How do we assist local TV businesses/individuals to access national and international markets for their goods and services?
• What can we do to support networking, communication and collaboration within the sector?
• What do we need to do to showcase the creativity of Nigeria, and marketing Nigerian Content and TV Production companies as creative resources to receive international work and seek inward investors into Nigerian owned film and television companies?
• How can we encourage innovation within the sector, and support opportunities around new media and creative content.
• What do we need to do to influence local and national Government policy and funding sector initiatives to the benefit of the Nigerian owned business sector thereby encouraging them to activate at international levels.
• How do we provide support to innovative projects in a number of key sectors including arts and crafts, media, new media and music that provide support to the TV industry and provide employment at their own macro-levels.
In evolving a strategy I have monitored the various issues the TV industry has been facing in the past many years that I have been involved. These include personal experiences as an individual and business owner; my relationships with Government owned media and policy makers. It also includes the business experiences with international, local clients, partners and professionals. Through various professional bodies I have been able to acquire a database of TV and creative businesses to ensure that my thoughts are in line with their current challenges experiences and future expecations. In looking ahead I have taken a flexible approach to the TV sector in the knowledge that as it develops new opportunities will emerge.
I have further defined the Nigerian TV industry as ‘those industries within the TV production workflow that have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent and which have a potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property by Nigerians locally and internationally for the Nigerian Economy’.
With globalization, new technologies, a vast array of media channels, new markets for creative products and services are creating opportunities for creative content to be developed and produced in new ways. There is an increase in demand for high quality, creative content and products for a global audience.
These trends have increased the political emphasis on the economic importance of the creative industries of which TV production is one of many. The creative industries are seen as having the highest potential for economic growth of all sectors in emerging economies such as India, China, the Middle East, and have been so for quite some time in South Africa, thereby confirming it as a key component of any emerging knowledge economy which Nigeria must become to become relevant in the modern day world.
Lets look at what Nigeria has to offer.
The following distinctive strengths of our country underpins my suggested strategy:
• A strong cultural identity rooted in rich tradition, diversity, local languages and English an international language
• An inspiring natural landscape
• A number of niche and renowned creative and cultural events and ceremonies
• A rich heritage of Folklore, tradition and literature
• Our Food, Dance, Lifestyle, and social landscape
• Recognized natural locations for film and television productions all across the country
• Facilities and expertise for film and television production
• Independent Media companies and freelancers
• Local television production companies with editing, lighting and audio facilities which continue to be established continuously by Nigerian investors
• A base for key agencies involved in Advertising and Marketing
For the purposes of this strategy, research into the TV industry in Nigeria was carried out.
Additionally, there are considerable numbers of smaller ‘hobby’ businesses, which have the potential and aspiration to make the transition to increased commercial profitability. The majority of respondents were involved in production activity. This was usually through production work, but a number were combining this with teaching or other services. Other significant sectors in this context were crafts, design, modeling, audio, writing, publishing, radio and music.
Thirty Eight per cent of businesses had customers internationally, demonstrating the worldwide marketplace that local production businesses are reaching. However, there was potential for more local companies to be reaching national and international markets. `The majority of respondents wanted to develop their business and increase levels of commercial activity, particularly through expanding into new markets and products.
The main barriers to business growth were finance to support expansion, training their staff and gaining access to markets.
Development funds, Travel costs, and Marketing of these companies were also affecting business growth. This related to giving businesses the opportunity to promote themselves and their work, and the cost of exhibiting products.
Eighty per cent identified further support that would assist them to achieve their development aspirations, particularly highlighting access to training, grants, loans or other finance, and marketing/support to promote their product/s or service.
Collaboration, particularly between producers locally and internationally, was viewed as a positive step in reaching markets locally and further afield. Collaboration was also viewed as allowing business to work together to access suitable premises – like studios.
There were opportunities for the NFC, ITPAN, BON, APCON, etc. to support increased collaboration within the sector, particularly through creating networks between businesses and disseminating information.
Businesses and professionals wanted greater recognition of their important role in the economy, regardless of the size of their business, skills and track record, and their contribution to the economy.
ITPAN (independent Producers Association of Nigeria) is a body, which has the opportunity to take control of this strategy and deliver a vision that will enable the Nigerian TV Industry to become internationally a recognized creative environment, characterized by vibrant and economically strong creative industries and highly skilled artisans. However, intrigue, selfishness and mis-management of the objectives of this Association has been a major setback for the industry. The gap which has been left by this Association to define and consolidate on the very promising beginnings of the Association leave a bitter taste in the mouths of many who had great expectations for ITPAN. The gap left by ITPAN will have to filled by a consensus and amalgamation of interests and concerned stakeholders in the industry. This task will not be easy, but it must be driven by a plan and well thought out strategy. It must have a constant objective that does not deviate, and to which we apply superior thinking and affirmative actions. It must be bench marked by what our colleagues have structured in similar organizations worldwide. What this might mean is seeking for an initial Government grant or quasi- foreign aid to establish a body that can postulate and manage an agenda that actually meets the yearning of development, which the local industry required.
The aims of this group are should be:
Grow and develop the production industry sector in Nigeria. Assist the creation and growth of associated creative businesses in the TV Industry. Encourage and train creative Nigerians individuals and encourage investment into locally owned TV production companies. Promote Nigeria as a creative place at national and international levels for TV production. Encourage the increase in the number of skilled Nigerians in the industry. Enable the TV industry to be a visible and respected contributor to the economy of Nigeria. Everything we do must be mirrored against these objectives.
This strategy should be accompanied by an action plan for 2011-2015 that sets out how these objectives will be worked towards, with a yearly agenda and action plan – one step at a time. An overview of my suggestions is given below. However, this approach will be flexible, as links with the sector will develop dynamically as new opportunities emerge as a result of ongoing developments. The action plan will be reviewed and refreshed continuously and amended as required to meet set goals and objectives.
• These are the core pillars of what I believe should be the strategic objective:
•Create alliances that enable the provision of appropriate business and professional support mechanisms, and promoting access to funding for members who support the group and professionals alike to support business and skills growth.
• Co-ordinate and distribute information to businesses and Professionals in the industry on business and skills development support offered through alliances that need to be created and sealed with key partners.
• Hold ‘Creative / Business’ one-day events with advice, information and business/Skills surgeries.
• Work with groups of members and professionals to encourage joint solutions to meeting production deliverables that require high quality and creativity.
• Encourage young people with creative skills to look at opportunities for business start up in the industry in new areas of production where we lack expertise.
• Develop a production industry funding guide and give follow up advice to individuals and businesses as appropriate, e.g., in relation to policy makers, other stake-holders, broadcasters, and other professional bodies
• Investigate potential for developing funding application for creative industries support, e.g., International funding support, local banks and other financial institutions.
• Promote opportunities for graduate placements and modern apprenticeships within the production industry.
• Assisting local Producers/individuals to access national and international markets for their products and services.
• Provide businesses with information and advice on accessing local and international markets.
• Provide information to businesses about trade fairs and encourage collaborative approaches to attending these.
• Supporting networking, communication and collaboration within the sector
• Develop production industry database/mailing list, and facilitate development of a virtual creative industries ‘cluster’.
• Identify interest in the establishment of industry-led trade groups in the TV, arts, crafts and media sectors.
• Support local and national networking opportunities through encouraging partnerships
• Showcase the creativity of the Local producers and marketing the country as a creative place to make programs; promote inward investors to local Nigerian film and television companies.
• Integrate information on culture and production in selling the country to inward investors.
• Develop case studies of production businesses in the country to demonstrate opportunities
• Develop a local TV industry portal/on-line showcase.
• Develop database of external media companies with an interest in the country with proactive follow up work and targeting.
• Encouraging innovation within the sector, and supporting opportunities around new media and creative content.
• Support the commercialization of cultural products.
• Influence local and national policy and funding to the benefit of the sector.
• Providing support to innovative projects in a number of allied key sectors including arts and crafts, media, new media and music.
These are some of the key areas where I feel a strategy should be founded upon. Whilst this is not an exhaustive and comprehensive agenda it does provide us with a framework to guide and assess progress. I believe it will engender a sense of objectiveness based on developing a sustainable direction, which can only improve the Nigerian TV Industry. It will make the industry more relevant, more importantly by setting an agenda based on a strategy, it will be easier to implement.
Finally, I must end with this note of caution; we must avoid from now on a fire brigade approach to issues that concern our industry. Every generation has the duty to improve and hand over to those coming behind a legacy that is based on values and standards that last and stand the test of time. Anything less does not us justice and portrays us as intellectually deficient. It is out duty to think, deliberate and manage situations in which we find ourselves to the benefit of our industry and country. We dare not do less.
I am convinced that what we need is introspection and a more ‘inward’ looking attitude. By concerning ourselves with the issues that will reinforce and cement a solid foundation which today goes beyond foreigners coming to Nigeria to shoot films; by focusing on the real issues like funding, tax incentives, business models that banks understand; by developing our skills; insisting on integrity; ethics and the best business and professional practices; by delivering highly creative and qualitative productions; by influencing government policy; and finally by being cohesive, strategic and focused we might yet still be able to stop the walk down into the abyss which beckons for the Nigerian TV industry. Unless we take the right steps and admit the issues are more fundamental and intrinsic we would be missing the boat.