History of Television Broadcasting in Nigeria


History of Television Broadcasting in Nigeria

Broadcasting in Nigeria was the answer to the British quest for communication to her West African colonies. From Britain, radio broadcasting, which began with the Radio Distribution Service (RDS) in Nigeria spread like the harmattan wind to the other parts of the country. All the phases of the development of radio signaled the advancement of the medium.

At the end of this article, you should be able to:

Recount the history of TV broadcasting in Nigeria

Discuss NBS transformation into NBC, regional broadcasting

Trace history of television broadcasting and the Nigeria Television Authority, among others.


History of Television Broadcasting

The Nigerian Broadcasting Service (NBS) had no initial plans to introduce television broadcasting into the country, and indeed, it never contemplated doing so. The reason was that its resources then could not justify the establishment of television in the country.

It was the high rate of illiteracy at that time and the lack of suitable communication infrastructure, which made the authorities prefer radio broadcasting which offered a quick and reliable means of reaching the amorphous population of the country.

Television was seen in the early 1950s as a luxury the government could not afford. However, its development in other countries and the possibilities it offered gradually became attractive and irresistible.

In 1950, two years before Nigeria’s Independence, there were series of discussions in favour of television service. However, the regional governments cashed in on the constitutional provision, which made broadcasting a concurrent subject to commence plans to introduce commercial television broadcasting in their regions.

The Western Region in December 1958 took the lead by first indicating its intention to establish four television stations and consequently applied for four frequencies in band one. The proposed stations were to be located in Ibadan, Ikeja, Abeokuta and Ijebu-Ode.

History of Television Broadcasting in Nigeria

The programmes would originate from Ibadan with other three stations transmitting stations. However, before the frequencies were allocated to the Western regional government, the Federal Ministry of Communication got the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) to submit its own frequency requirements first before the Western region since it was also by law to provide radio and television services for general reception within the country.

As the Federal Government had no immediate plans for television broadcasting, it decided to allocate two frequencies in band: one to the Western regional government with some limitations in power and height of the aerials (Ladle et al, 1979).


The Birth of WNTV (1959)

With the background given, television broadcasting eventually began in Nigeria and, indeed, the whole Africa on October, 31, 1959 at Ibadan. It was the Western Nigerian Television (WNTV) established by the Western regional government of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, then Premier of Western Nigeria.

The history of television broadcasting in Nigeria shows that it followed the same pattern with that of radio broadcasting but the exception is in the area of the initiators.

While it was the Federal Government that started the first indigenous radio broadcasting in the country, it was the regional government that first ventured into television broadcasting (Uche, 1989). The WNTV with the call signal, “WNTV, First in Africa” was established by an Act of the Western Regional House of Assembly, which empowered the government of Chief Awolowo to forge ahead in the venture.

The WNTV now (NTA, Ibadan) was run as an arm of the then Western Nigeria Government Broadcasting Corporation initially under the trade name, Western Nigerian Radio Vision Services Limited which worked in partnership with overseas Reinfusion Limited of the United Kingdom.

Two years after its inception, the government of Western Nigerian bought over the shares of the foreign partners and became the sole proprietor.

WNTV Ibadan was soon to become the richest commercial television in the whole federation, even though commercialization was not the main reason for its establishment, but formal informal education. 

The proponents of its establishment had argued in the Regional House of Assembly that television broadcasting was needed as an additional means of improving the regional school systems that were handicapped to the shortage of qualified teachers in certain subject areas.

Their second argument was that television would act as a “surrogate” teacher in the under-staffed schools of the Western region.

Regardless of the fact, the WNTV grew to become a big commercial television, the potential ability of television to educational objectives at both primary and secondary school levels, as well as adult education became, and remained the overriding factor for its establishment.


Television Broadcasting in Other Parts of the Country

One year after, the WNTV was set up as Africa’s first visual communication outfit by the government of Eastern Nigeria headed by Dr. Michael Okpara. 

The premier followed the pace set by Ibadan and established Nigeria’s second television station in Enugu known as the “East Nigerian Television (ENTV).” The station had the slogan, “ENTV, Second to None.” ENTV began full transmission precisely on October 1, 1960, Nigerians Independent day, and like WNTV, it has foreign partners at the top management- the same overseas Reinfusion that built WNTV, Ibadan like WNTV and ENTV Enugu later took full control and management of the station when the foreign companies that were engaged initially to manage it were disengaged.

History of Television Broadcasting in Nigeria

The need for formal and informal education also was the overriding aim in the ENTV’s establishment, although it soon abandoned this objective and went into commercial television broadcasting. 

NTV was an arm of the Eastern Nigerian/Broadcasting Corporation (ENBC), which also operated ENBC Radio in Enugu following the establishment of WNTV in Ibadan (1959) and ENTV Enugu (1960).

The Northern regional government of Sir Ahmadu Bello on March 15, 1962 established the Radio Television Kaduna (RTVK) as the service arm of the Broadcasting Corporation of Northern Nigeria (BCNN).

RTVK was owned jointly by the Northern Region and two British firms Granada Television and Pye Limited, although the Northern Region was the major shareholder.


The Nigerian Television Service (NTS)

As mentioned earlier, the authorities in the Federal Government did not initially see the establishment of a television station as a priority. It was for this purpose that it conceded the allocation of two standard frequencies on Band One to the WBTV, Ibadan.

The same Federal Government was however embarrassed at the speed with which WNTV and ENTV were set up by the Western and Eastern regional governments. This notwithstanding, some of its key officials were dissuading it from venturing into television broadcasting on the ground that television was a luxury and that it was more advantageous to maximize the development of radio.

After much political rancor and arguments, the Federal Executive Council finally approved the establishment of a Federal Government owned television station to be located in Lagos.

The project became realistic in April, 1962 with the takeoff of the Nigerian Television Service (NTS), Channel 10 at Victoria Island, Lagos.

NTS was set up under agreement by management with an American network-owned NBC-International, which built the station. It was jointly owned by the Federal Government and NBC International, which signed a five-year management contract with the provision that Nigerians would take over full management of NTS at the expiration of the contract during which the American company would also sell all its shares to the Federal Government.

At the expiration of this agreement in 1962, the NTS became a full-fledged Nigerian station under the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC).

History of Television Broadcasting in Nigeria

It was initially known as NBC-TV, Lagos and its services were confined to the then federal capital, Lagos, The NBCTelevision was specifically designed to provide adequate services in education, social and economic development as well as transmit Nigerian and African cultures, tradition, politics, drama, literature and entertainment, of course these were the overriding aims of modern television broadcasting in Nigeria.

The advent of television brought in its wake a new dimension in broadcasting in Africa. For instance, within the first decade of its arrival, no fewer than 22 African countries established their own television stations.

The journey started from WNTV, Ibadan (1959), and ENTV, Enugu (1960). Internally, the creation of an additional region in 1963- the Mid-West Region also led to the establishment of the fifth television station in the country, the Mid West Television (MTV) in Benin in 1973.

Benue Plateau Television (BPTV) followed in 1974 but with a difference. The station established by the then Benue-Plateau state government had emerged transmitting in colour. It is therefore a historical fact that BPTV, Jos was the first television station in Nigeria to transmit in colour.


The Era of Private Television Stations (1992-2004)

This fourth phase in the development of television broadcasting in Nigeria started with the 1992 promulgation of Decree No. 38, which authorized that National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) should issue licenses for private radio and television broadcasting in Nigeria that saw the establishment of NTA stations in each of the 36 states of the federation.

More will be said on this later in this unit. Private television broadcasting started in Nigeria in 1993 and there are at present nearly a score of private television stations in different parts of the country. With Decree No. 38 of 1992, the National Broadcasting Commission, which was empowered to regulate all kinds of broadcasting in the country, removed the exclusive right to own and run a television station from the government.

Among the private television stations that emerged earlier from 1993 were Minaj Systems Television (MST) Obosi, Anambra State, African Independent Television (AIT) Lagos owned by Raymond Dokpesi, Channels Television, Clapper Board Television, Murhi International Television, Galaxy Television, DBN Television, Independent Television, and so on.

History of Television Broadcasting in Nigeria

The government controls and regulates television broadcasting in Nigeria to ensure orderliness in the allocation of airwaves to the various interest groups in radio and television transmission. The NBC, which is the vehicle for this control, also has the right to withdraw license from any of the private and public radio and television stations found guilty of flouting the law that brought it into existence.

The further phase in the history of television broadcasting in Nigeria also falls within the Fourth Republic, which took off on May 29, 1999 when General Olusegun Obasanjo (rtd) became Nigeria’s third civilian president. During this Fourth Republic, the Federal Government decided to open NTA stations in all the 36 states of the federation.

Consequently, many NTA stations were built all over the country. Most of all the states have two NTA stations each. The commissioning of the new stations began towards the end of 2002. One of the new NTA stations built in Owerri, the Imo State capital was commissioned by the then Minister of Aviation, Mrs Kema Chikwe in March 2003. Before then, many other stations had been commissioned in many other parts of the federation.

In his valedictory address as the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Professor Jerry Gana noted that a total of 67 new NTA stations and 32 FRCN stations were established in different parts of Nigeria during Obasanjo’s first tenure of four years (NTA network news, 25th May 2003).


Conclusion on History of Television Broadcasting in Nigeria

From the ongoing, it is pertinent to note that broadcasting in Nigeria was actually established for political purposes. The emergence of radio revolutionized information dissemination in Nigeria. Television broadcasting spread fast in Nigeria and other parts of Africa though the growth of broadcasting in Nigeria was slowed down by government intervention and ownership.

This unit has revealed so much about the history of radio broadcasting in Nigeria, phases in the history of broadcasting, the beginning of effective radio broadcasting, the NBC transformation into BBC, regional broadcasting, and history of television broadcasting, television broadcasting in other parts of the country, the Nigerian Television Service and the era of private televisions in Nigeria.

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