Nigeria: NTA rolls out 79th station and implements Wonder Cube news gathering system

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MZahardeen Nasirdeen is the Corporate Affairs Manager of the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA). He spoke to Anthony Ada Abraham of Leadership on the prospects and challenges facing this media organisation..

What are the achievements of the director-general of the NTA so far?

One of the achievements of the director-general is the expansion programme: the new stations we have set up - the multi-channel system. As I talk to you today we have 79 NTA stations running across the country. It was only last week that we commissioned the 79th station at Okitipukpa.

And we have already been given the matching order by the president to ensure that all other ongoing stations are completed and commissioned before the end of the year. So by the time we finish commissioning the stations, NTA would have 101 stations so that our teeming viewers' yearning can be satisfied. At the moment we cover about 95% of Nigeria. We want to ensure that every Nigerian has access to television broadcasting.

Taking a look at his journey in NTA, you will find out that Magawata is a man of his word. In less than 24 months in office he has fulfilled what he promised. On assumption of office, Usman Magawata (NTA’s Director-General), who has always been part of the system did not find it difficult to study what was on ground. He quickly came up with his strategic plan of action and meticulously began implementing them one after the other.

First was the acquisition of a high quality and very sophisticated news equipment called "Wonder Cube". This equipment is the first of its kind to be introduced in the continent of Africa. It is an automated, paperless and tapeless newsroom. It has an archival storage capacity of 1,000 years, and it can be called up within seconds. There are only few broadcasters in the world that can boast of wonder cube. They include the Cable News Network (CNN), British Broadcasting Cooperation (BBC), Al Jazeera and NTA. As you can see, NTA is the only network that has what its takes to compete with any broadcasting outfit in other parts of the world.

For record purposes, the fund used to purchase this equipment is internally generated. The wonder cube will also provide for NTA at least five additional channels for simultaneous broadcasting. In addition, the DG, in his determination to promote the quality of NTA news and programme content, also procured High Definition Cameras (HDC) and the editing chains of all NTA stations across the country.

Among other noble achievements which have become very popular among staff and viewers outside is the introduction of brand new channel, NTA News 24. And before the end of this quarter, the remaining three channels the 24-hour sports, 24-hour entertainment, as well as 24-hour educational channels would be on air. The sports channels indeed will be on air before long.

On digitalisation, it is on record that NTA has gone into partnership with a Chinese company-Star Communications, to achieve the digitalisation of NTA before the 2012 deadline. The NTA under the present leadership would be the first television outfit to comply in no distant time.

It is also on record that the DG, a former rector of the TV college, takes training and retraining of staff very seriously. No wonder he gave a large number of staff opportunities to be trained in different fields, both within and outside the country.As a national electronic media organisation, what are the innovations the NTA is putting in place?

Well, I am sure you are now aware of our multi -channel system. The NTA used to have one channel only, which we used for local and network transmission, but today, we have five channels; four of them are live and one of them is on test transmission. And the stations are NTA International, our main network, NTA Sports, and NTA Education. The next channel we are going to bring on stream is NTA Entertainment Channel which will come out very soon, before the lunch of the multi-channel which will be launched by the president.What effort has the DG made to digitalise the NTA to compete with other international broadcasting media organisations around the world?You know that there is a cut-off date for digitalisation for Nigeria. I want to assure you that we have already started the digitalisation of our stations.

Abuja, Lagos and Kano have already been digitalised, thanks to the project that NTA and Star Communication Technology China are embarking upon. We will soon move to Kaduna, Ibadan, Port Harcourt, Onitsha, very soon.