The Standard Of Broadcasting Has Dropped - Biodun Shobanjo

.."People come on air and you don’t know whether it is American English or Queen’s English they are speaking".

Biodun Shobanjo

BIODUN SHOBANJO, a name synonymous with excellence, needs no introduction in the marketing communications industry in Nigeria. For more than four decades, he has been a great inspiration to a number of professionals in and outside the country. And, of course, he has a bagful of enviable feats to his credit, having won several awards at home and abroad.

Early in life, he started his career as a broadcaster with Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation, NBC, where he worked for seven years in the Programmes Department. He later joined Grant Advertising, where he rose to become the deputy managing director.
Like a restless soul, Shobanjo, in 1980, established Insight Communications which today has revolutionized marketing communications practice in Nigeria.
Indeed, without recourse to unnecessary hyperbole, Shobanjo, who in 2009 was the host and CEO of the first and only season of the TV reality programme, The Apprentice Africa, may be said to think, dream and live marketing communications as exemplified in the success story of Troyka, an investment holding company. It comprises The Quadrant Company; SKG2; Optimum Exposures, All Seasons Mediacom; Media Perspectives; Azzagai and Halogen Security.
In this interesting encounter with KINGSLEY MOMOH, Shobanjo, who in February, 2010 was inaugurated as the First Ambassador-General of mass medical mission (mmm) of National Cancer Prevention Programme (NCPP), bared his mind on the state of broadcasting in Nigeria and other interesting issues that are dear to his heart.

How did your broadcasting story begin?
I actually went into broadcasting straight from the secondary school in the ’60s.  In those days, you had your fantasies about the people you listened to on radio. Also, don’t forget that television wasn’t big at that time. So, when you listened to a particular interesting person on radio, you would say, “I want to be like this person; I want to speak like this person.” But unfortunately, I didn’t stay there for too long because I had some other interests as time went on.

How would you describe broadcasting then and now?
There is no basis for comparison. I regret to say that the standards have actually dropped nowadays. In those days, people were trained to be broadcasters; so, you just didn’t stumble on it. Also, before you were put behind the microphone to even do a recorded programme, you had a producer who would check your voice and you had to know how to use the dictionary by Daniel Jones- it taught you how to pronounce words. Besides, there was a training school then.
In those days, if you listened to any of the radio stations in Nigeria, the quality that you had could have come from anywhere. In fact, it was also the case even with those that worked on the technical side because we were exposed to a lot of training.
But I am not so sure if all these are still done nowadays. If you go to all the private TV stations and radio stations in Nigeria today, you may not find any training school or people who train the practitioners. I really don’t know, and that’s why you hear words being badly pronounced.  If you were doing a programme then, you had to find out how a particular name is pronounced, irrespective of where you hail from. But this doesn’t happen anymore. So, Nigerian names are now crucified on radio and television.  Again, you wonder how some people call names of some foreign countries. In those days, people were not forgiven for calling a name or pronouncing a word wrongly. You must have found out how a certain name is pronounced- it didn’t matter where it was under the sun.
Every fortnight or thereabouts, we would hold a whole programme’s meeting and at that meeting, everything would be discussed. Nobody would know the programme that would be recorded. It was only the director of programmes who would know. It could be Dr. Christopher Kolade or the controller of programmes, the late Ishola Folorusho. So, they would ask someone to record some programmes off transmission which would then be critiqued. It didn’t matter who the producer of the programme was and it didn’t matter how highly placed he or she was.  Anybody was free to comment and criticize the programme. So, it was a serious business. But I am not so sure that happens anymore.


Do you subscribe to the saying that globalization has affected broadcasting?
How would you attribute it to globalization? The thing about globalization is that it enhances competition. In fact, it dictates that you must up your ante because it is one global village. In other word, I have the choice to watch Biscon Television or watch whoever I want to watch all over the world when I have my decoder. I am not obligated to watch any particular channel or particular radio station. So, I would only watch the TV station or listen to the radio station that offers interesting programmes. In fact, this should now make you guys up the level of what you are delivering. But I regret to say that it is not what one notices now. People come on air and you don’t know whether it is American English or Queen’s English they are speaking.  That’s the way some people understand globalization, but it is wrong.

So, would you say it is the audience that determines what a broadcast station offers?
Do you know that part of the primary role of the media is to educate, in addition to entertaining and informing the listeners or viewers? There is a way in which you speak the English Language and there is what we call the Queen’s English (pauses)... And it might interest you to know that even Americans admire the British when they hear them speak English. So, if the medium of communication is English, for crying out loud, speak English as it should be spoken. Look at Bisi Olatilo, he is a product of the training that I mentioned; he does not speak English using the American accent.

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