He runs Virtual Media Network Limited, via which he churns out contents for five channels he owns on Star Times network, with plans to acquire more channels. He started off on radio as a music presenter with Ogun State Broadcasting Corporation but today, Femi Aderibigbe, more popularly known as Kwame is considered one of the biggest players in content creation and production for television. He shares his thoughts with the Editor of The Street Journal about the new reality – social media, how it is causing a retrogression in young people and federal government’s plan to regulate it.
What is the essence of having five channels and expending enormous resources to keep them running, what exactly is your aim?
We are simply playing big on language and following in the footstep of BBC that has English, Yoruba, Swahili, Hausa and the rest of them. Before you can truly conquer a people, you must be able to speak their language. Language breaks down barriers. We have a unique strategy where we do almost similar contents but in different languages; Yoruba on Orisun Channel, Igbo language on Isimgbido Channel; Area 10, pidgin English Channel; Nigezie, a music channel that birthed the other four and Nollywood Plus. You can enjoy the best content in your own native language. English is formal but your native language makes it personal. This gives diversity and uniformity.
With social media becoming the in-thing, how are you going to be able to handle this emerging reality?
A lot of people still access information from social media. We are taking our game to meet them there and as attention shifts to social media, content is still content, regardless of the format you choose to present it. It is all about reformatting it for the social media and mobile audience. However, TV is still a good platform at least in Nigeria, even across Africa.
What do you think about talks of federal government planning to regulate social media, isn’t this going to affect online media operation?
I want to see how they want to regulate it because most of the servers of all these companies aren’t in Nigeria so how do they want to regulate what they don’t own unless they regulate the use of the internet or data usage or something in that regard and that means they will kill a lot of companies because that would mean banning a lot of these things that drive social media. It’s not going to happen because people are going to look for ways to circumvent it and there would be the technology to circumvent it. I think what government needs to do is to create their own buffer information zone. Which means that within that zone, you can control the information that comes there. But it takes a level of investment I don’t think they are willing to do.
What are your thoughts on the new broadcast codes to regulate broadcasting in Nigeria?
I helped to draft their new policy on music and music content along with Kenny Ogungbe, Olisa Adibua at the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC. I have been in this business for about 25 years and I just know what should be broadcast and what shouldn’t. So I try as much as possible to stay away from fake news and sensationalism as much as possible and encourage other media houses to do the same. Code or no code, professionals should learn to do what is right. I produce contents which are on Star Times and the license is Star Times license who will be penalized if there is a violation of the broadcast codes, not me. But despite this, I still follow the broadcast code.
What is your assessment of the entertainment industry looking back from where you started from?
It is a lot better in terms of technology, the tools of the trade. But the man power, the skill set and the passion, commitment, the drive, is really, really depleted and a lot of young people these days don’t show as much commitment as we did back in the days. They don’t have to hustle as much as we did and so they are not as passionate because they have it so easy. That passion is what is missing. If they can have that passion with all these tools of the trade in existence no, then they will take over the world.
What would you say has been your greatest challenge in this business?
The challenge is the usual everyday challenge one faces in Nigeria. It ranges from everything like providing your own electricity, the sorry state of the roads etc. It is crazy in terms of infrastructure but the biggest challenge of all is man power. The more technology advances, the easier things get, the easier access to information gets, the bigger the TV and computer screen, the larger the computing power is. I think it is causing a retrogression in the minds of young people because they are getting less passionate, less committed, less invested in this. Most of the time, they see the glitz and glam and don’t realize there is a lot of hardwork that goes into this. So when you hit them with a lot of hardwork, you become an enemy to them. Man power is critical and I keep saying that entrepreneurs are in trouble in Nigeria and if the trend continues in the next five, six years, one may not get anyone to employ because everyone wants to be their own boss these days and they are so poorly trained that they don’t have the skill set, are so confused and do not want to learn. That is probably the biggest challenge.
You started off your career as a presenter with Ogun State Broadcasting Corporation. One would have thought that by now you would own a radio station.
Radio is my first love, I did it well and probably won all the awards to win including Fame Music Award which was a big deal that time, for Best Music Presenter which was like the highest award I won on radio. I have plans to get a license but most of the time, they give licenses more to politicians than to the core broadcasters. Before it used to be given to businessmen but it is tough now, it is heavily politicized. But I am hoping that one day, I will get it.