What hosting the Emmy Awards semi-final will mean to Nigeria

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Nigeria recently hosted the semi-final of the 2011 international Emmy Awards for the first time. Catherine Agbo writes on the relevance of that milestone to the motion picture industry

The profile of Nigeria was taken a notch higher recently when the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) secured the right for the country to host the semi-final events of the 39th edition of the international Emmy awards.

The international Emmy Award is a membership based organisation with headquarters in New York. The organisation was formed to recognise excellence in television and global showcase of television talent.

The event hosted by Nigeria forms an integral part of award’s judging process.
Director-general of NFVCB, a member of the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (IATAS), who secured the right to host the award on behalf of the country said that the platform would provide a platform to lift the Nigerian industry’s fortunes.

According to the NFVCB, films produced in the country account for a considerable per cent of the box office takings in Africa. Only last year, President Goodluck Jonathan, provided a $200 million grant for the entertainment industry in recognition of the importance of the industry to the growth and development of Nigeria.

The award of the hosting right to the country through NFVCB for the prestigious 2011 International Emmy Awards Semi-Final is therefore perceived as a fall-out of that recognition.

While screenings are very much the heart of the international Emmy awards, thousands of industry heavyweights enter the award for the benefits derivable from it.
The coming of the semi-final judging events to Nigeria, according to Mba, is to involve Nigeria as a country in the scheme of IATAS, particularly with a view to increasing membership of Nigerians and their entries for the Emmy awards. The right to host the event is an implication that the academy has recognised the country as a thriving home entertainment industry and/or market and also realises that there are great opportunities to be harnessed therein.
Speaking at the event, Mba said that the time had come for Nigeria which prides herself as the second largest producer of films in Africa to begin to produce for the world as people would judge their works according to what they see.

He called on producers to take advantage of such international opportunities to showcase themselves to the world. Speaking on the benefits of hosting the event, Emmy Awards representative, Anikka Sellz, said that it would increase the profile of the country among contemporaries in international television and also expose producers to programmes they would ordinarily not see.

Being a member of IATAS allows the producers of a country to see what work is going on in other parts of the world. It also makes it easier to look for co-production opportunities as they interact with their counterparts from other countries. During such interactions, new possibilities can emerge, more areas of cooperation can be discovered, better exchange of ideas can happen-in terms of techniques and also finance. And there must also be a reversal of roles.

Going by this opportunity, if Nigeria eventually becomes a member of the academy, the country could also have a day with the academy, following one of IATAS initiatives, which is the Academy Day. On such a day, 100 members of the academy could be taken to Nigeria where they would get a chance to learn about Nigerian TV, government and the performing arts in the country. The Academy has done same in Mexico and Beijing and did one in Berlin recently.

Through the hosting of the event, it is expected that Nigeria will be exposed to a wider global audience, just as the judges who were picked from professionals within the country would also have the opportunity to meet and interact with their counterparts in other parts of the world and also help up their game in the practice.
According to Yunusa Tanko Abdullahi, Assistant Director Corporate Affairs, NFVCB and Coordinator, International Emmy Awards semi-final judging event, the size of TV production in Nigeria is considerable and the NFVCB would like to see this number rise many folds in the near future, so that there will be more exchange of ideas from Nigeria with players from the rest of the world.

Usually, the Academy has about 700 jurors to judge regional content from around the world, from beginning of March to end of September. And they go through a rigorous process to select the semi-finalists. Then, a new set of judges selects the finalists and you have four nominees from each category out of which the winner comes out. Sometimes, an Emmy can be won merely on the basis of good acting. And for now, no one can say there is a dearth of talent in Nollywood.

Although broadcast television remains one of the most popular forms of entertainment and information, the sub-sector is faced with a myriad of challenges which range from poor programme packages to poor editing and poor picture quality. Despite this, the average Nigerian still spends an average of 20 hours a week, watching their favourite television programmes.

The question often is why has Nigeria remained in this deplorable state despite many years of local content programming? Gone with the wind are the days when people looked forward to and followed closely television series such as ‘Cock Crow at Dawn’, ‘Village Headmaster’, ‘The New Masquerade’, ‘Samanja’, ‘Ichoku’, and many more, which were produced and funded by the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA). The times were later to change as many producers were forced to stop ongoing series midway and close shop as NTA doubled the price of airtime for programmes it had not commissioned.

With the event just concluded in Nigeria, Nigerians will be exposed to the modern trends in television programming as well as new techniques. The hosting of this event, therefore, is to open the eyes of Nigerian industry players, corporate or individual, to the need for a change in the practice to avoid having low production as documentaries, operas, films or videos on Nigerian Television for a long time to come.

Chairman, NTA board of directors, Ibrahim Buba, who was one of the judges, described the hosting of the event as the best thing to happen to television programming in Nigeria. He said that for him, it was the highest point of his career in television journalism, which spans several decades. Buba advised Nigerians to take motion picture production seriously as from the screening of the entries received for the 2011 awards, he had come to realise that Nigeria was still several notches below where it deserved to be in motion picture production.