From ‘Here is the News to Here is the Good News’ – The story of a top broadcaster

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An insight into the Radio Nigeria Network Newscast experience of one of the pioneers in the industry, the famous News Magazine programme presenter, Mr Tayo Adebayo, now a retired venerable of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion.

Mr Tayo Adebayo was born into the famous Onibudo family of Kudeti, in Ibadan. He had his primary school education experience at St David’s Anglican Primary School Kudeti. He later moved to the present day Kwara State where he attended Oro grammar School, Oro, and Esie/Iludun Anglican Grammar School, Esie for his secondary education. He came back to Ibadan Grammar School for his Higher School Certificate course, all at the benevolent instance of his cousin and guardian, the late venerable D.A Adekola. He was sponsored by the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (Now Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN)) to study Mass Communication at the University of Lagos and also on a number of senior Management Courses. His working career spanned twenty-seven years as he joined the then Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation (Radio Nigeria) early in 1968 as a Studio Manager (Trainee). He rose through the ranks to become Controller/ Programme Operations.

He was also trained by British Broadcasting Corporation experts i.e. Renowned Newscaster Michael Ashbey and Producer Rogen Ketskemety. Tayo Adebayo was a Newscaster on both the Ibadan National Station and the National Network of Radio Nigeria for over twenty-five years before his voluntary retirement in 1993.

BROADCASTERS INTERNATIONAL took him up on a number of issues ranging from broadcasting then, now and in the future.

B.I.

What was the rationale behind this idea of Network News casting in the then Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation now FRCN?

ANSWER

Network News Reading, I could recall, took off in 1979, following the restructuring of the then Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation, which later became the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria. Although we still maintained the nomenclature Radio Nigeria as our On-Air Name but it was changed from NBC to FRCN. I could recall it was under the then Director General, Dahiru Modibo. It was to lend some Federal character spirit into News Reading at the National Level. That time, Lagos was the headquarters and I was privileged to be one of the pioneer Network News Readers. What happened was that, like I said the then management thought that Network News Reading should reflect the different Geo-Political zones of the country. Announcers and News Readers would be drawn from the East, from the North and from the West. I remember I was the first to be so recruited from the west. I was the only Yoruba among them. While somebody would be taken from Enugu National Station then another person from Kaduna National Station. We were housed in Ikoyi Guest House. It was always for a period of one month and at the end of every month another corps would be brought in, from each of the regional stations. That gave the Network News Reading a kind of Federal character so that you hear the Yoruba man, you hear somebody from the North and all that. That was the take-off point of the Network News Reading pattern.

B.I.

For how long did you take part in this exercise?

ANSWER

I remembered I went twice; first in 1979 and again in 1980. At this point in time the management felt I should not go again because as a Principal Announcer, I had to really supervise and nurture budding and upcoming announcers at the Ibadan National Station. The Network News Reading arrangement went on until the headquarters was shifted to Abuja and it continued to some extent but with recent developments, we noticed that it has become an all comers affair. The federal character thing is no longer reflected. You hardly hear people from some other sections of the country on the News. This is not to promote tribalism or nepotism, but I believed that each region has talents that could be made use of, at the federal level in Abuja. But this is not so again. What I later on was made to understand was that The News Department imposed itself and took over the presentation unit, with the thought that anybody reading the news belongs to the News Department. That was not the tradition we met. It is the Programmers that train News Readers. News Department produces News and the Programmes division will supply “the voice” to read the News. That has been the tradition but I think what is happening now is that Announcers and News Readers now belong to the News Department. How that came about, I don’t understand because I left some twenty-eight years ago.

B.I.

Sir, can we now talk about standard.

ANSWER

We cannot talk about standard unfortunately when we had already compromised it. What I grew up with was that every News Reader must go though the language laboratory, in the training school, in Lagos. I went through it. We were trained by BBC experts to read News. Everybody is a raw material until you pass through that language laboratory, go through drills in phonetics, learn the rudiments of Spoken English and then qualify to become an Announcer, but I doubt if that is happening, particularly in state government owned stations. They don’t even encourage or embrace that idea. Anybody can be recruited on the basis of “Oh! He or She speaks English language very well” and it is straight to the studio. This shouldn’t be. English is not our local language and it has to be spoken the way the owners of the language speak it, and that is the essence of having a training school. So, the tradition we grew up with has been abandoned. It is now an all-comers affair. And that is why things are the way they are. When I got to know that the News Department has snatched the Presentation of News from the programmes Division, I just laughed because I don’t understand the development. Presentation belongs to the Programmes Division. We supply the voices that must cast the News but its no longer so. We cannot readily talk about standard again because it is already compromised.

B.I.

You talked about State Owned Radio stations just now. Now that we have so many FM radio stations (a proliferation as the case may be) all over the country and even beyond. Can we now say the standard is better or worse than ever before?

ANSWER

That’s an interesting question. I remember I was invited to take part in a program in one of the new FM. Stations and I  made this point that the proliferation of radio stations all over the country has become a curse in a way, in the sense that quality control is no longer there. People don’t believe that they need to be trained and like I said there is a management philosophy “If you don’t train them, don’t blame them.” We must learn to do what is proper and get them trained. I remember I thought somebody was still in a state owned radio station. I sent a text message. I was listening to one of their programmes. It was a News Presentation. You could hardly hear what the man was saying because it was all affectation. I was bothered because it wasn’t that the man does not understand English language but he seemed not to have had any training to make him a qualified personnel that can function On Air. So anybody does whatever pleases him or her On Air.

B.I.

Can we really know some of your colleagues in those good old days of Network News Reading?

ANSWER

I could still recollect from the North – Sanni Sada Magaji who came from Kaduna, Sam Okolo, Kalu from the east, Nkenna Ndaguba, Martins Okooh and so many others I can’t remember all. It’s quite a long time.

B.I

Sir, can we rightly make a pronouncement that Tayo Adebayo, the Ace News Reader, has been hiding or why has he not been coming out to defend his constituency by presenting papers or moving out once in a while to chat them up in some of these FM radio stations about the need for professional sanity.

ANSWER

It’s not that one has been hiding himself. I left the industry on receiving a call to the Gospel Ministry. It was clear and unambiguous; I couldn’t reject that call I had to leave all and follow Jesus following the lines dictated by the call. Not that I abandoned Broadcasting. Even while I was in the Gospel Ministry, I want to thank God that the experience in Broadcasting came into play. Anytime there was clergy school I was always invited to address even the clergymen on how they should speak on the pulpit, like; in the areas of articulation, the way they should comport themselves when they are on the pulpit and all that. I remember there were occasions when I was invited (I have papers to support that) I had to lift it off the pages. Anybody can write anything. It is the voice that will bring out the message. I could recall that I am still doing the same because I believe whatever you have on paper the only way you can do justice to it to read it well. Let’s imagine somebody like Professor Wole Soyinka is in the congregation one day and he hears you speaking good English. Of course that’s enough to convince him to say “so, there’s some message in the gospel too.” Like you said I didn’t abandon Broadcasting, I only left “HERE IS THE NEWS” for “HERE IS THE GOOD NEWS.”

B.I.

Any word of advice for budding Broadcasters, practicing, or yet to get into the system?

ANSWER

I think the problem has to do with the Agency Controlling the industry. There must be a guide line because the Yorubas say “a knock knee should not be blamed for the bent nature of the load he or she is carrying because instead of looking up, we should look down where it all started from” if a body is set up to control broadcasting then quality control should also be included in that control. The problem with Nigeria is that politicians are always put in positions they are not supposed to hold. I can say that because when you are put in charge of an organization you don’t know anything about, to function well might be a little bit difficult. Quality control has already gone to the dogs. Now I think there should be a comprehensive guideline from the NBC detailing Radio organizations on what is expected of them in terms of quality control. Anybody going On Air must be trained. There’s the Nigerian Broadcasting Academy owned by the FRCN. They must be compelled to attend it. If they are compelled to attend it then quality control is in place. That is the place to determine who really qualifies because they will not even train you if they know you are not trainable. You must be a raw material, a very raw material that can be “panel beaten”, so that you can become useful On Air. I think it has to start with the NBC. There must be a clear guideline of what is expected of “voices” that should be heard On Air. Let them go for that training. Like I said “if you don’t train them, don’t blame them.”

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