In the words of Sammy Ajufo, a new radio station opens up in Ibadan every 5 minutes. While the statement may seem like an exaggeration, it’s really not too far from the reality on ground. New stations are popping up in Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State in Nigeria, almost every month and that has made many people so curious that they have bombarded us with all sort of questions at Primus Media City. Many people want to know if radio business is really very lucrative, those who are business minded are making enquires about the cost of setting up a radio station, another set of people want to know how easy it is to secure a license to set up one.
Well, I shall attempt to answer as many questions as I can, based on my own knowledge of the industry as a result of critical observations and almost 15 years of personal experience, which has taken me across 5 different radio stations.
It is however noteworthy to mention here that a radio station is not as cheap to establish as it has been made to seem in recent times. While we can argue that cheap is relative, its definition to a Dangote is not the same for someone like me, the truth remains that anything in excess of a hundred million Naira can not be generally regarded as cheap. Is it that lucrative? I’m afraid it is not generally as lucrative as many people have been made to believe. Please note the careful use of the word “generally”, that is just to tell you, radio business could be very lucrative, if you are one of the very few industry leaders. I think this explains the reasons for the bitter rivalry and heavy competition among some of the thriving stations, the desperation to break into the circle of the industry leaders is palpable.
So, if it is neither cheap to establish nor very lucrative, why do we have radio stations popping up like filling stations in the city. I’m excited to reveal to you 7 reasons why people own radio stations. My list is not by any means exhaustive, but I’m sure it captures the most. As a man sold out to the promotion of media industry’s interest, I will try to juxtapose the different type of ownerships with the fate of their workforce. Also, it is informative to note that some of these reasons may overlap and coexist at the same time. That being said, let’s roll;
1. Research and Educational Purposes – Campus radios, Institute radios belong to these categories. They operate with a community license and they are strictly to educate, inform and entertain a particular well defined community. Legally speaking these ones are not to make profit. Their license as issued by the NBC does not permit them to run commercial activities. However, as a Practitioner working there, you may not be famous like your counterparts on commercial radio stations, but your pay should at least be regular. As they are funded by grants, subventions etc. So if you are passionate about a subject or a community and you are not profit driven, this is a valid reason to own a radio station.
2. Social Responsibility – Often times we hear of a rich man or a philanthropist opening up a radio station in his village, and many people wonder why any reasonable person would make such business decision. Well, that is another great pointer to the fact that not every radio station is established for profit. Some eminent personalities and illustrious sons of a community who have been privileged to come in contact with the power of the media believes in it to transform the life and economic activities of their community. Hence, they invest in it as a matter of social responsibility to bring development to their people. Examples of this kind of radio stations abound in villages and rural areas all across the nation. Workers in this kind of establishment are not generally well paid, in comparison with their counterparts in other commercial radio stations. Their welfare is largely dependent on the personality of their Proprietor. If he is caring and he has a large wallet, they are in for a good time. But if not – dem go hear am!
3. Prestige – This reason is very similar to the previous one but they are not exactly the same thing. While the former is bore out of a heart of service, the latter is more for personal aggrandizement. Media is powerful, so some money bags decide to own a radio station as a means of wielding power and polishing their status. People in this category are most times retired professionals or socialites who have had some close interaction with the media industry, and are fully aware of the power and prestige that comes with being a radio Proprietor. Unfortunately some of them get tired easily along the line, because their goal is delivered immediately they successfully kick start the station and have Radio Proprietor included in their profile. Workers in this kind of station are more like Orphans, because their absentee chairman does not really care about them. Most times, they are prematurely granted autonomy and their welfare is largely dependent on the ingenuity and sincerity of their management. I’m tempted to give examples here but…
4. Religion propagation – There is a command in Christendom known as the Great Commission. It is the command of God to Christians to always preach the gospel and to expand it. Likewise, Muslims believe they attract special blessings from God when they lead others to worship Allah through different messages and preachings. Devoted Christians, especially Clergy men don’t joke with the Great Commission, likewise Islamic practitioners don’t joke with the blessings that comes with such exercises, this is more visible during the holy month of Ramadan. And that is the reason why those with deep pockets among them are always willing to invest in media ownership. They see it as an effective way of spreading their tentacles. And of course, media is very powerful and it can surely deliver their desires to them, if well deployed. As a worker in this kind of media establishment, you really have nothing to worry about as long as you can adhere intoto with their rules and regulations as religious group. The personality of the set man or doctrine of the establishing institution goes a very long way in determining your working condition and your general welfare. Proprietors of such media organizations will either be its greatest asset or its greatest challenge. All you need here is to be creative, responsible and law abiding. You should also pray that your Proprietor doesn’t derail, if he or she does and his motive change from evangelism to profit generation, it could spell doom for the workers that are present through the phase of transition. In times past, most of such became profit mongering slave drivers. It is however noteworthy that many Radio Stations in this category are Christian owned.
5. Profit – For some reasons, I’ve decided to keep the point of profit making till now. Profit is what is generally believed should be the motivating factor of all founders. As a matter of fact more than 50 percent of Proprietors will tell you profit making is their motivation, and most time it is always the drive. Like I said in my introduction, media business could be very lucrative if you get your rhythm right and you get into the league of the big boys. However, it is informative to say that it is a long term business and it’s growth rate sometimes is not for the faint hearted. Most Proprietors have a solid plan that could have eventually yielded, but the media market forces are so strong that if you are not very careful they will force you in the opposite direction of your plan, in a bid to survive and be viable. This is one of the major reasons why every radio station seems to be doing the same thing, they are just responding to the market forces. Workers in this kind of organization better be ready to work smartly and creatively. Their general welfare is largely dependent on the school of thought of their proprietor and their solvency. Some proprietors believe if you take good care of your staff you will get the best from them, while some believe if they are too comfortable they will be lazy. Unfortunately, some of them do not have enough capital to hire the best hands that can drive their dream, while some does not have the mental capacity to keep up with the market demands. These are some of the reasons why many stations in this category are struggling, while just a few are bubbling.
6. Propaganda – From time immemorial, there is this rich romance between the media and politics. Politicians always love to invest in the media, in order to be able to control narratives. Right from the very first republic in Nigeria, politicians have invested in media, albeit print media back then. With the promulgation of the Decree 38 of 1992 by the regime of General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida which opened the floor for the private ownership of radio stations, Politicians have shown keen interest and have invested heavily in the media. Many radio Stations owned by politicians are not business investments, rather they are tactically deployed tools of propaganda. They use their radio stations to promote their parties, and to set their agenda. They also use it as a tool to get back at their opponents and detractors. Workers in this kind of organization are secured as long as they keep being an effective tool and their demands are not too burdensome. But, as a typical Nigerian politician is known to use and dump, they are only safe as long as there is a need for them, or till their Proprietor locates another tool.
7. Money Laundry – This one suppose shock you if you no dey beef the media industry! Until recently, I never knew this could be a possibility, but now I think I know better. There are some radio stations that exists for fun and for some coded purposes. Such radio stations are neither balling nor suffering, but ordinarily their revenue generation strength cannot power their “ballership” and their life style. Workers in such station are moderately paid but their pay is constant. Occasionally, they create artificial scarcity, just for some reality make believe effect on their staff. Workers here are on a steady cruise, they have little or no worries. However, ambitious ones among them may find the steadiness and lack of challenges boring and discomforting.
It is pertinent to note that these categories are not water tight as one or two reasons may easily coexist in a single organization. Likewise, change is constant, some organization started with a particular reason and sauntered into another reason entirely. For instance a radio station started for religion propagation may derail into profit or prestige over time. Similarly, a station started for prestige may switch to profit or Money laundry because of any business opportunity.
So, can you attempt to group the stations you know under these categories?
Afouda Samuel writes