Monday, 28 December 2015

John Momoh on how he started Channels Television 20 years ago


Channels Television’s bias for news has placed it well above other competitors in the Nigerian television industry.

The station has bagged the ‘Best Television Station of The Year’ an award endowed by the Nigerian Media Merit Award Trust – 10 times in the last fourteen years (2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012  &  2013, 2014, 2015), thereby making Channels Television “the Station of the decade”.

Two weeks back, John Momoh, the Chairman of Channels was the guest speaker at Prince Bisi Olatilo’s 62nd birthday reception held at Niteshift Coliseum where he spoke about the story of Channels TV at 20. It is an interesting read.

“The story of Channels Television, Africa’s most awarded Broadcast Station is an interesting one. It’s an amazing 20 year history which has seen professionalism and enterprise fused into one, to result in what is today, the most trusted, and most successful news organisation in Nigeria.

I set sail within Nigeria’s radio and television broadcasting environment some 38 years ago, to pursue a career path as a broadcast journalist. I started out as a junior and then senior reporter; news anchor; news editor; and then finally, as a key producer respectively, for Nigeria’s National Radio network of (FRCN) and the National Television Authority (NTA). Prior to that, I had a two year stint with Ogun Radio Abeokuta.

After 15 years as a young broadcast journalist I had cultivated a strong ethic, to uphold the highest ideals in balanced reporting, and the right to adequately inform the citizenry. Increasingly, however, in the same breadth of time, an unquenchable desire to achieve a purposeful and consequential professional excellence seemingly overtook me.

Along with that desire, the dream to attain a more fulfilling and worthwhile future through a pattern of work I could influence and have complete control over, became a central focus of thought for me. In a nutshell, I had reached a tipping point in my life and a place of absolute restlessness.

And so, propelled by a strong urge and passion to create an innovative professional paradigm, I resigned from the NTA without any tangible evidence of financial security.  Nonetheless, I was convinced without any doubts that an untapped “Greenfield” opportunity with specific reference to my area of speciality, was well within grasp.

With great anticipation towards achieving a fulfilling, purpose-driven life, I started a production facilities company in 1993. It was during one of the most challenging times ever, in Nigeria’s recent political history. It was at a time during, which sub-Saharan Africa’s political and economic evolution was littered with flickers of dying ambers of dire military dictatorships across the continent.

Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole had begun to recover from the brutality of the lost decade of the 80s; an experience that was met with the full force of a US-led World Bank that was insistent on adopting an austerity driven-approach towards helping many African countries out of an irrepressible bulwark of decadent poverty.

A major condition-precedent set by the World Bank then, was the mandatory deregulation of the media as a precursor to ushering in a new era of democratic governance. On reflection, it was indeed, a timely development for me.

By 1993, I had successfully applied for a license to launch a free-to-air news television station. With limited capital and a resolute determination to succeed, the commitment of my family, a loan from a local retail bank, and the eventual support of a few friends, and a committed core staff of fifteen people, we began test transmission two years later for Channels TV within the municipality of Ikeja, Lagos.

But for a dogged spirit of faith and a committed wife, the sudden rush of early setbacks which we experienced then, should have completely broken one’s resolve to continue in the pursuit of what rapidly disintegrated into an unlikely dream.

 Looking back, however, I am extremely glad that one’s conviction that Nigeria needed an independent, cutting edge television news service did not falter. It is that sense of purpose and intrepid commitment, which enabled my family and I to endure the wearisomeness of energy-sapping trials, uncertainty and, a stagnating period of financial insecurity.

Nonetheless, we persisted in our drive to remain solvent. The raisin d’tre for Channels was to ensure the development of a “Fourth Estate” with the aim of cultivating and upholding the highests ideals in balanced reporting and the right to be adequately informed.

So, in spite of the early pitfalls and near collapses, we had to survive. And survive we did, bootstrapping our way to financial stability, cognisant of the self-instructed fact that there was no turning back until our mission is accomplished.

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