History of Television in Nigeria

Nigeria was one of the first nations to introduce television broadcasting in Africa. Western Nigeria Television was, in fact, the first television station in Africa. In this article, we’ll take you through the establishment of regional television stations to the growth of television stations as more states were created, as well as discuss the takeover of all the television stations by the federal military government and the subsequent deregulation of the broadcasting industry in Nigeria in 1992. Let’s get into the history of television in Nigeria. 

History of Television in Nigeria

The history of television in Nigeria would be discussed below: 

  • Establishment of Regional Television Stations in Pre-Independence Nigeria 

Radio broadcasting officially began on December 2, 1935, following the directives of the British colonial authorities in 1932. For over 20 years since radio broadcasting had begun operating in Nigeria, the regional governments were concerned that the central government controlled the content of radio stations across the country. With the McPherson Constitution got amended in the late 1950s to allow for regional control over broadcasting in the country, different radio and television stations began to spring up across the three regions at that time: Northern Nigeria, Eastern Nigerian, and Western Nigeria. 

For the sake of this article, we’ll just focus on the history of television broadcasting in Nigeria.  

  • Establishment of Western Nigeria Television (WNTV)

In 1959, on the 31st of October to be exact, was established, following the motion of Chief Anthony Enahhoro, who was then the Western Region’s Minister for Information and Home Affairs, and the subsequent passing of the bill in the Western Nigeria House of Assembly. 

WNTV began as a joint venture between the government of Western Nigeria and Overseas Rediffusion Limited, with the former providing a share of the capital and initial operating cost. The TV station began operating with two transmitters at Ibadan and Abafon. The partnership between the foreign firm and the Western Nigerian government soon ended as the former realized it couldn’t attract an audience for advertisers as the Western Nigerian government’s philosophy didn’t conform with that of the foreign investor. Hence, the government of Nigeria became the sole owner of WNTV. 

WNTV continued to expand its facilities and by 1975, the television station was able to cover nearly 60 percent of the Western State. The programmes that were presented on WNTV were largely educational and mostly local content, and they were mostly produced in the Yoruba dialect. 

  • Establishment of Eastern Nigeria Television Service (ENTV)

In 1960, exactly on Independence Day, that is, on October 1, Eastern Nigeria Television service was established. At inception, the eastern regional government negotiated a contract with a foreign firm, but the Eastern Nigeria government soon bought out the foreign partner, becoming the sole owner of the television station.  

In the beginning, ENTV coverage was only limited to the Enugu district, but as time went by and facilities were improved, the coverage spread to the industrial centre of Port Harcourt and the urban centre of Aba. By 1964, the coverage of ENTV extended across the borders of the eastern region. Plans were made to extend the operation of ENTV to reach all parts of Nigeria and neighbouring countries by getting two powerful one-million-watt transmitters from Continental Electronics of America. Unfortunately, the Nigerian civil war broke out in 1967, and the television studio was damaged by mortar shells. It was until 1970 that ENTV commenced operation once more. 

  • Establishment of Radio and Television Kaduna (RKTV)

The establishment of Radio and Television Kaduna (RKTV) was established after the Northern Nigeria government negotiated a partnership with the Granada Group Limited and the Electrical and Musical Industries Limited, both British firms, to serve the interests of the region. In 1962, RKTV began operating out of a temporary station at the Independence Hall of Government College in Kaduna. A year later, RKTV moved to a permanent site, there, the television station was transmitting three hours daily, six days a week. The programmes were produced in both English and Hausa, and about one-third of the content was locally sourced. 

The partnership between the foreign partners and the government of Northern Nigeria blossomed as RKTV was the best-equipped television station of the three regions. RKTV also covered the largest market area, reaching a population of over 30 million at that time. 

  • Establishment of Nigerian Television Service (NTS)

On April 1, 1960, the federal government established the Nigerian Television Service (NTS), signing a 5-year management and training contract with National Broadcasting International (NBCI). By 1963, per the directive of the federal government, NBC took control of the NTS basic programming policies, until 1967, when the contract with NBCI expired. 

Although NTS had problems at inception such as a lack of adequate equipment, small studio space and limited coverage of just Lagos, the television station soon expanded its facilities, moved into a permanent site and improved its coverage to reach the entire Western region.  The programmes of NTS consisted of local shows, foreign films, newsreels, and educational programmes. 

  • Growth of Television Stations Across Nigeria 

When the military came into power in 1966, the federal military government restructured the country from four regions into twelve states, and then into nineteen states later on. As more states were created, so did more television stations spring up across the country. 

  • The Takeover of all Television Stations by the Central Government in 1977 and the Establishment of NTA

In 1968, a committee consisting of all the State Commissioners of Information met and came up with the recommendation that the federal military government take control over all the radio and television stations in the country. Although the regions didn’t like the idea of conceding their rights of control over their radio and television stations, the federal military government had to amend the constitution to enable the takeover of all television stations in the country. In 1977, all the television stations in Nigeria numbering ten, were under federal control and the government proposed countrywide colour television. 

That same year (1977), the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) was established to coordinate, among other things, the activities of television stations in Nigeria. In 1977, there were 19 states in Nigeria, and 10 of them had television stations, so NTA had to establish 9 new television stations in the capital city of the States without a television station. 

The television stations in each of the 19 states became Production Centres, and they were operated under the supervision of NTA, bearing the call TV signal NTV, however, every station was distinguished according to the location of the state capital, for example, WNTV-Ibadan became NTV-Ibadan. For the first time since television broadcasting started in Nigeria, NTA made it possible for all television stations to carry national network programmes. 

  • Deregulation of Broadcasting in Nigeria

In 1992, General Ibrahim Babaginda-led administration deregulated the broadcasting industry in Nigeria, allowing private individuals and organizations to operate both radio and television stations.  DITV became the first private television station to go on air in 1992, and 30 years on, the television industry in Nigeria still blossoms. 

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