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Africa Magic provides platform for the African story – Segun Fayose

 By Mcphilip Nwachukwu  & Benjamin Njoku

Segun Fayose is the HOD, Corporate Communication, Multichoice Nigeria, the owners of M-net Africa. In this interview, he spoke about activities of Multichoice; and especially, about  M-net Channel, its programmes and the controversial creation of Hausa and Yoruba Channels to the exclusion of other language viewers. He spoke to Sunday Arts.

Let’s take a look at the creation of Africa Magic by M-net.Do you think that the channel achieved its defining  goals?

I think to a large extent that  the creation of Africa Magic channel, dedicated to the home video industry in Nigeria and other parts of the African continent has been a very positive development for the channel and for M-net, the owners of Africa Magic channel. This is because the vision behind creating that channel was to give the African story teller a platform to tell the African story as against having an African story told by foreigners in a language that they understand and in manners that appeal to them.

Africa Magic has now given the Nigerian creative artistes; the producers, directors and actors the platform to rise and shine; attend to a certain level of parity with their other  counterparts in other parts of the African continent and indeed, other parts of Europe and America.

Yes, we can’t pretend that it’s the end of the journey yet; but, we’d say that the Africa Magic story today, is  a step in the right direction; a stepping stone to a greater height.

Through Africa Magic Channel, there is now, a better understanding of what Nigeria as a country represents; what the country’s film industry is all about and what Nigeria stand for . There is also a better understanding of who is a Nigerian, the places, the voices and the personalities that make up Nigeria as a country. Also from the business perspective, there is another window being created now for the creative artistes to make more money for themselves.

In the past, you know that the producers only had the window of releasing their films on VHS and CDs to be sold in the market. But today, there’s another window of opportunity, where they can make more money by taking their films and DVDs to M-net for showing on Africa Magic. Ultimately there’s a greater recognition for the Nigerian creative artistes and the film industry in particular. Now , Nigerian artistes are recognized globally  because DSTv beams our local films in not less than 40 countries in the continent of Africa. By extension, some of the projections they get is also projected by the advent of the new media like the online, which transports our films to other parts of the world.  So, our celebrities are no longer local celebrities, but  are recognized internationally. That’s good for their profile, and also good for the industry as well as the country. And I’m also sure, M-net is happy that at th end of the day, it’s like a disguised corporate social investment.

Can you shield more light on this new window you are talking about here? 
I’m talking about the new media. You know that there’s a convergence of the media now. In the past, what you read in the newspapers and magazines stayed for the print media. But now, whatever you read in the newspapers or magazines are posted online, and if you watch a video on television, you probably would be made to see the same video on line.  Because of the convergence of the media there’s a wider pool and heavy traffic of people who are exposed to your message.

Today, you can actually go online and online media is growing on daily basis A story posted online can be read by a million people in less than a week. In this sense, we are no longer restricted to the print or broadcast media.  We are now actually having a convergence of print and electronic media.

What is happening to Nollywood now is a water-shield development in the sense that more and more people are getting exposed to what’s happening to the Nigerian home video industry. That’s a huge and positive development for all of us as Nigerians.

Don’t you think the online scammers would tap into this new window and thereby begin to constitute problems, again to the copy right of artists?

Our copy right laws are clear, strict and well enforced to a reasonable extent.  We are not pretending that there are no little gaps here and there. But those gaps are few and far between. The online media; especially the radio and television is an opportunity and the print media too. We have had people who abused the broadcast media and also, people who have abused the print media.

So, they will always be there. But then, to a large extent, the positives you are likely to take away from the many advantages of online media are more than the negatives that arise as a result of the new opportunities.

There’s no doubt that Africa Magic has helped to sell the  African tale, but do you think the kind of stories told about Nigeria  from the Nollywood perspective as beamed by Africa Magic tell a comprehensive story about Nigeria?

We can’t expect that one particular film can tell a comprehensive story about Nigeria. What you would expect is that certain films would look at certain aspect of the Nigerian story. They may not be comprehensive in the sense that if you are looking at it from the literary perspective. But if you assemble a wide pool of these films, and add one or two elements together, they give you a better picture of what Nigeria is all about.

Of course, we understand that in our movies, people talk about black magic, voodoos commercialism and portrayals of crime and witchcraft. But again, the film industry in that way to a large extent is a critique of the society. To some extent, the films portray some aspect of truth about our society. If you look at it historically, some other industries started that way. They started by critiquing their own environment before they moved to other levels.

Considering this, the viewers are inquisitively becoming sophisticated. So, let us not assume that anybody who sits at the comfort of his home believes everything that he sees on television. People are now able to discern what’s reality and fiction or falsehood. To a large extent, there’s a difference between when you are telling your story and when somebody else is telling your story on your behalf. The story comes closer home when one  tells one’s story . There is a higher level of believability when you are telling your story.

Yes, we are not yet there. It’s an experience that is on-going. The critical thing that one notes here is that films are produced for the audience and not the other way round. So, why you think that there are some aspects of reality that you want to behold in our films, what you need to ask yourself is whether those aspects of reality sell a film. Now, the industry is at the fledgling stage, a lot of producers want to have their feet firmly on the ground.  I believe there will be light at the end of the tunnel in Nollywood. 

What’s the motive behind the creation of Hausa and Yoruba channels by Mnet to the exclusion of other ethnic languages ; and especially, the Igbo language Channel?

There’s no doubt that Nollywood is today  flourishing because of the fact that early practitioners emerged from the Igbo extraction ;producers, directors and the stars themselves were all from the Igbo speaking nation. But when the Africa Magic channel was created, most of the films agreeably came from the Igbo extraction. It continued that way.

But today, how much of Igbo films are churned out on regular basis by the producers. That’s the question you ask yourself. Now, the Hausa film industry is strictly for the Hausa market, just as the Yoruba film industry is strictly for the Yoruba market, even though the films are sub titled in English language.
It’s on record that the early film makers did their films for the pan-African market, using English as the medium of communication. Definitely, you can’t call it Africa Magic Igbo, because the medium of communication is not Igbo language. If you watch a typical Hausa film, it’s delivered in Hausa language from the beginning to the end of the production.

I must point out here that the creation of channels by M-net is not an attempt to promote one ethnic language above the others. No, that’s not the intention. Africa Magic, owned by M-net is strictly about entertainment; profitable entertainment.

So, the idea is that there’s a striving market and Africa Magic moved in to explore the market. That’s why those channels were created. M-net will continue to create more channels on their own merits. But to say that M-net is creating channels to favour one ethnic group over the other, is unfounded here. I absolutely disagree with anyone that makes such insinuation.

The creation of channels is strictly as a result of the business needs, market needs and the need for M-net to give opportunity to the people to enjoy the kind of content or programme they desire to enjoy.  There’s no attempt whatsoever to undermine the relevance of one ethnic group over the other, otherwise there wouldn’t have been any need for the creation of the channel in the first instance.

If that’s is the case, how come we don’t have an Africa Magic channel dedicated to Ghana, or other African countries? For a long time, the argument  prevailed. But M-net supported the fact that Nollywood was a growing industry, and the people were enjoying its products. There’s no ethnic undertone or coloration as regards to the creation of channels by M-net.

But M-net didn’t discover this business needs until other pay-Tv like HiTv and Dasat came up with ethnic channels?
I don’t think so. But what you have to understand is that the channels you see on DStv are not product of ad hoc arrangement. They usually take a long time, planning and research. M-net carries out a research about the variability or otherwise of having different channels. Sometimes, it takes nothing less than two years to actually create a channel. But the layman on the street does not understand the dynamics. Dasat may have created their platforms, they have their reasons, just like every other pay-TV stations.
M-net has had in the pipeline for a very long time the creation of ethnic channels, but it wanted to have a enough materials. I can challenge anybody to go on M-net/Dstv platform, the person will discover that the Channels usually start small and grow with time. When the Africa Magic originally started, it was’nt showing for 24-hours. It was  showing for 6-hours daily, later it migrated to half a day, moved to weekend programme before it reaches where it is today.

This is because there are enough materials to sustain the channel. If M-net launched out with a bang, and suddenly had no enough material to sustain the tempo, they would not have had the kind of reputation that it enjoys today. Ditto for the Africa Magic Hausa and Yoruba, those channels, the content  has always been there. M-net needed to aggregate sufficient material  to hold its subscribers hell-bound as long as the channels  last.

Now that Reality Shows has become  major content for pay-TV and local channels, what’s M-net doing to creating more reality shows to help her maintain the lead?

Yes, Tinsel is coming back on air. Tinsel  is a local production and has entered its third season. It is coming back on air sometime in June. And, now the show is going to be running at least five times,  a week. That’s an improvement on what it used to be, and that’s because a lot of Nigerians are actually clamoring to have more of it.  We are still going to see more of  “Jacob’s Cross”. Within the year, we will also see the second coming of “Najia Sings” which is our indigenous music talent competition. Last year’s edition recorded a  huge success. The second edition is going to come up sometime in September.  And of course, we are already seeing the “Comedy Club”, which is also an indigenous production. There is also the possibility that Big Brother Africa Revolution will come back again.
M-net as you know, is also involved in other local productions. It is  involved in the  training of talents in the industry. Don’t forget that Big Brother Africa Revolution was won by a Nigerian last year, and that Nigeria hosted the M-net face of Africa also, last year


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