The authorities in our radio broadcast stations will benefit from some observations and even criticisms by listeners to their programmes in recent times.
The air waves are in need of quality radio productions from both the public and privately-owned stations.
Because producers and presenters are prone to imitate their colleagues in other broadcasting houses, mistakes or errors are soon made to look like the ideal.
The most glaring of all these imitations is the adlib quip of “Welcome back,” usually coming from the presenter after a break or an intermission.
Who is being welcomed back? The listener/viewer who is fixed on his seat waiting for a return of the interrupted news or other form of programme or the presenter who actually was off the air while the intermission lasted?
The presenters can follow their colleagues who usually say: “It’s nice to know you are still there…”
It sounds more sensible than “welcome back” said by someone who actually went away and got back on air later.
But much more important is the real programme itself.
Let’s begin with the news bulletin.
News is the raison d’etre of a broadcast establishment. It is unfortunate that some privately-owned stations just go on from hour to hour without bothering to give news to their patrons.
Even such a fundamental function of “time check” is ignored while endless music is playing.
Any serious radio/tv house ought to have blocs of their daily schedule devoted to news – with distinct periods for major bulletins.
The Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, FRCN, is of course the pioneer in this field and remains the flagship and model.
Some State Broadcasting Houses also have their fixed time for major news bulletins and hourly headlines or just summaries
But what is supposed to be the duration of a standard news offering?
In the days gone by, the British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC, had nine minutes for its major news bulletin. And for a long time in Nigeria, the Nigerian Broadcasting Service, NBS (later NBC) and now FRCN, also gave its major news in nine minutes.
But it is no longer the practice now. Today almost a whole 60 minutes is allotted to the news at seven o’clock in the morning to enable the national network cover the entire nation in a single bulletin.
Obviously something has to give as major news transmutes to a pure “Newsreel” with reports and actualities thrown into mix.
Time there was when ordinary citizens set their time pieces with the radio time which was given hourly.
Today there is a laissez-faire attitude to time announcement and news duration.
Because of the elastic time given for news in the national network, tight editing suffers.
Choice of news is guided by no principle. Inserts in the news are made without any concern as to the quality of the recording and clarity of the material.
So-called correspondents are given freedom to report without any voice training to match or even come close to the news reader’s or presenter’s well trained and articulate voice.
Very often an insert of an actuality produces no sounds or what is played is the wrong one.
Let us accept it as occasional human error. But if producers of nowadays were to be less carefree, almost indifferent toward their assignment, tests would have been run on all materials for broadcast.
By so doing, some professionally unacceptable errors would be avoided.
Another major observation is the dwindling number of real radio programmes.
Programmes should be conceived, researched, materials assembled and ultimately produced, timed, registered and deposited in the studio library to be released at the scheduled time of broadcast,.
There used to be various types of programmes – Children’s, Women’s, Listeners’ Choice, Announcer’s Choice, Music Programme etc.
As their titles indicate, certain programmes were targeted to specific groups and one looked forward to be by the wireless set when one’s choice programme was about to be aried.
Well-produced programmes always had repeats to justify the effort put into them and to enable more people benefit from them as repeats are scheduled in another time belt to capture more listeners.
Sports and Current Affairs programmes make a station worth its while and there should be fixed times for every programme.
A radio organization of professionals will have difficulty finding space to accommodate all programme ideas in a 24-hour period.
How do we improve radio products?
To begin with, we should return to the basics of giving news on radio; announcing the time hourly; cutting the time for news while re-introducing news-reels and other news features where sufficient time is devoted to more details in the news, together with actualities and correspondents’ reports.
Such delectable BBC programmes like “From our own correspondents” should be emulated to enable correspondents to shine.
The major news bulletins should be so well edited that major events around the world are reported in brief to enable a busy listener to have an idea of important happenings around the world without sacrificing all his time for the news.
Radio programmes are supposed to be produced and presented as if the listener matters.
Phone-in audience participation exercises are quite interesting and entertaining at times.
But the truth is that they are peripheral gimmicks to fill air time.
Quality control is zero except for the behind-the-scene technical and engineering personnel who ensure that signals are sent out in the first place by effectively tending the transmitters.
Those in the studios with the microphones should be regularly trained and retrained to appreciate the importance of their jobs.