Why I ventured into media big time – AFRINET 24 Boss
Mr. Solomon Emmanuel is the President and co-Chief Executive Officer of a Kaduna-based media outfit known as AFRINET 24. He is a Sound Engineer, a film maker and a Media Consultant that cut his teeth in Journalism with the Quest Media, Abuja and the BBC, London. In this interview with Mayen Etim, the AFRINET 24 Boss bares his mind on media development in Nigeria. EXERPT
What spurred you into involving in the media? Don’t we have enough media in Nigeria?
Passion and love for the graft drives me into the media world. I started as a Studio Manager, with Quest Media owned by Timaus Mathias, my mentor in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. When I left Quest Media, I worked with BBC, as the Head of Sound in a Television HIV programme “Wetin Dey”. I started developing interest from there; I knew then this is the graft that will take me somewhere, some day.
Honestly, we don’t have enough media in Nigeria. We don’t have enough to cover our population as a country. I believe with time we will get enough.
How do you see the media in Nigeria?
Generally, media in the country are trying their best, but their best is not enough because if you check some of the aspects, the media is operating on one direction. The investigative aspect of journalism is not there. Though I play a double role in the media world, as a Film maker and a media consultant, so most of the time I’m in the field recording sounds. You know I’m a Sound Engineer; I record most of the big movies you see on your screens, like the recent one, “Lion of 76”, and others too numerous to recall.
But from your observation how would you see the media performances, do they balance reports or influenced by certain things?
It’s both. In some aspects media reportage is balanced; and in others it is a kind of doctored, like whatever the government says, that’s what the media report. It’s a kind of 50-50 ratio. Sometimes the media focuses on government programmes alone and that makes it not fair enough. Some of them though are transparent, if you check some media houses you’ll know what I’m talking about.
How would you assess and score the Nigerian media?
I’ll score the media in Nigeria about 55 percent because when it comes to technology advancement, Nigeria is still struggling to come out of Digital Video (DV). Honestly, if you check the developed countries, most of them are transmitting 24hrs on High Definition (HD), but here in Nigeria it is hard. For example, it is hard to see a Television station broadcasting on HD.
Would you say the media is on the right track?
Yes, we’re on the right track. You see in this country we take things a step at a time, which I believe with time we’ll be there.
What is your opinion on the relationship between the media and government?
The relationship is not that cordial. Normally you know to be sincere… the major source of news is from the government, and this is kind of daring because government sometimes is not there for the media, it uses the media to get to the governed but not helpful to the media. I will score the immediate past administration high than this present one. The immediate past administration assisted film makers in the country, like the Project Act Nollywood, YouWin. In any aspect the government was helping people. Even though I’m not a direct beneficiary, but from what I read and heard, the immediate past administration was there for the people.
Now that you’re getting involved, what type of medium are you introducing?
AFRINET already has an online Television, though it’s narrowed to the Hausa speaking audience. We’re trying to reach the Hausa speaking audience in Nigeria and around our borders. So, we’re streaming 24hrs, on mobile phone. We’re trying to bring 24hrs series in Hausa. We focus in Hausa because it has a very large audience more than any languages in the country. The channel is AFRINET24.com/Tv.
Any special or peculiar innovation to be introduced by you into the media world especially in Nigeria?
The specialty here is entertainment. Nowadays nobody wants to be frustrated again. After a hard day’s work, we want to entertain the people. We don’t have enough entertainment and children programmes running in our local stations. We have enough news and current affairs, on any station you tune to; but not enough entertainment or children’s programmes.
What will make your organization thicker when compared to its contemporaries?
AFRINET 24 is all-rounder. We’re building a Cinema and Events Centre, we want to carry out public enlightenment campaign. What we’re doing now is translating most languages like Chinese into Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo languages for Star Times. We’re also translating the ‘Johnsons’ family cartons in English into Hausa in DSTV. So, we’re focused because only the translation employs about 160 people. That’s why we focus on that because it creates employment for the teaming youth.
How do you intend to run the media outfit as well as weather the storm of competition and economic crunch?
I don’t see running of AFRINET 24 as a competition. I play my role and allow others to play theirs so that we bring something to the table for the development of the media in the country.
How would your relationship with your staff as well as their welfare be?
The relationship with my staff is more of a family affair. All my life I’ve been a Freelance. So, I introduced it in AFRINET 24 and I told my staff not to depend on salaries, but they should depend on what they work. Any job done we record it and pay the staff for that. This is transparent and flexible. Nobody queries anyone for not coming to work. So, they love what they’re doing, because they know if they didn’t come to work, their accounts are going to be zero. If you check the studios now, they’re full, some of them work overnight because we run shift. We have fourteen studios and they’re always full.
My relationship with them is more of a brotherly kind. I don’t believe in “Me boss, you servant” fashion or style. If any staff has problem, he comes and we iron it out. You know, there might be grudges here and there but we keep going. In AFRINET we have staff strength of 160, but when you add the actors and actresses that sum up to 180 from the three major tribes in Nigeria – Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba.
You mean to say all your staff are freelancing?
Of course they are staff. For example, if I say I will pay N20,000 – N30,000 highest as salary which is convenient for the company, but for each job coming to the organization, some of the staff end up getting higher than that depending on the job.
What is your advice to media proprietors?
Let’s just try to be advanced though it’s not a competition, but let’s try to catch up with media houses outside our borders. Most of the things we’re doing are outdated. So, we should introduce more equipment, try to be advanced, and also be transparent in whatever we do.
Talking about your social life, how do you unwind amidst your busy schedule?
Honestly my social life is nothing to talk about because I don’t have any. Sometimes I leave the office 10pm because each day I have to upload like…. Now I’m sending work to China via the Internet, and I’ll make sure that I set it to transfer overnight. Sometimes I leave the office 1:00am, to rest at home then come back to the office by 7:00am. At other times I would get home as early as 7pm – 7:30pm so I could have a nice time with my kids, beside this I don’t have a form of social life.