Sunday, 28 February 2016

The Deriding Farce that is the Nigerian Broadcasters's Merit Awards by Tobechi Nneji


Just because this is not my usual style and I know a good number of people will say several things to discredit this piece, I feel the need to state some facts.

1. I have been nominated in 3 categories in the Nigerian Broadcasters' Merit Awards
2. I won an award last year
3. I attended the 2013 edition, in which I was nominated
4. I was in the long nominee's list for the 2015 edition
5. A lot of people I know and genuinely care about have been nominated and have won and we appreciate the 'recognition'. This does not discredit the effort of the nominees and winners.
With those being stated, let me now proceed. By the way, this is a LONG piece.
I feel a tad ashamed of myself for waiting this long to write about this but I take consolation in the fact that I mentally kept giving the organisers of the Nigerian Broadcasters' Merit Awards a chance to get it right. Maybe I expected too much of them...I mean it's not everyone that is capable of objectively going through their past efforts and recognising loop holes and fixing them. For all I know, they may be having post-event meetings (this is me, giving them the benefit of doubt, and assuming they have a structure that includes a post event report and analysis) and patting themselves in the back, speaking about how successful their award ceremonies have been.
The 6th NBMA happened last night. Congratulations to all the winners. I had a number of friends and acquaintances at the ceremony and their feedback made me feel like I was there. It also made me feel sad that after 6 years of doing the same thing, these people, the NBMA organisers (and I know I should, at this point, have the name of the organising company but you see, I feel like they don't even deserve to have me do that research and mention their name because they would not do the same), still put up an event that is not only poorly done but, is in fact, an insult to OAPs, Content Developers, Producers and everyone involved in the Nigerian Broadcast space.
Let me take this from the beginning. I will incorporate my direct and indirect experiences with this award set up in my analysis (or whatever you choose to call it).
1. The categories:
I understand that the award ceremony wants to recognise every media professional and not just the ones in the big apple, Lagos, which, frankly, has always been a bit of a thorny conversation when non-Lagos OAPs get together. That, in itself, is a noble gesture. But an award ceremony with almost 100 categories? Really? And with every category having the name of every single person who is a player in that field, regardless of skill, delivery, listener numbers or anything really. Who are we kidding?
2. The long Nomination List:
Most award ceremonies have this. A long list of considerations and then a panel that keeps cutting short the list till they have the premium nominees to fit into the already developed nominees template, which usually has a set criteria for categories and a maximum number of nominees per category. I am not aware of any credible award ceremony that crowd sources it's final nominees list from twitter. It is evident that the NBMA organisers do this to create a sort of trend and social media buzz around the ceremony. Instead of reaching out to influencers and paying for on air and online promotions, they choose the cheap, manipulative kind..." Tell them to tell their followers to tweet and use the hashtag so we can trend. They want the attention, they will do it".
For the 2015 edition, my name was on the long nomination list even though as at the time the list came out, I had been off all forms of radio broadcast for almost 6 months. Does that make sense to you? Exactly...me neither.
3. The Voting:
I have to give it to them on this one. For the 2015 edition, they had dedicated codes for each nominee which must have made it easier for the nominees to 'sell their market' and solicit votes. But then again, that long confusing process, (which, might I add, is very error prone seeing as the omission of one number in the code would mean a vote for someone else) would not be necessary if the NBMAs had a reasonable number of categories and nominees. It's funny how in broadcast media we learn to keep it short and simple but a ceremony that claims to celebrate broadcast media professionals evidently has no inkling as to what that is.
4. The Build up to the ceremony and online promotion:
Check out @nbmawards on twitter and just take the time to read their tweets. Oblige me one more time and read through their website.
I am sorry to have just put you through a few minutes of brain draining activity. I believe that soaking up distasteful and mediocre content can, in fact, wear out your brain cells (I have no scientific proof of this, it's just my opinion and the way I feel when I see some sorts of things online and just skip them), so I honestly apologise. But do you see my point? The phrasing of headlines and tweets are dishearteningly ridiculous and mundane. The content quality makes me feel like I am being forced back to primary 4, when all I could watch was black and white TV in the house, even when I had experienced the joys of coloured TV in the homes of my richer classmates.
I wonder if the NBMA organisers have not asked themselves why they are not yet regular annual features on any TV or Radio station in Nigeria. I mean, they are celebrating Media Professionals; why aren't media professionals celebrating them? I hear a member of their team got an interview from an OAP who was nominated for the second time and then the OAP went on to win in her category. Does this make you wonder about credibility? Yeah...me too. Let's talk about that.
5. Credibility:
The year I won this award (which I appreciate), I had so much going on that I didn't even fully acknowledge that I was nominated. In contrast to other years I had been nominated, I didn't do a drive for votes and I can't even remember if I voted for myself. I was nominated in three categories and I won in one. That would make it all seem like well deserved merit yes? Yes. But then, the year before that, the vote drive was massive. It was in one category and so every single promotional and soliciting endeavour was geared towards one goal. I also voted for myself and made sure all my family members (and I have a large family) voted like crazy. A friend of mine who works with a telecom company handed me his phone and asked me to use 50k of his credit to vote. Yeah...50k that I could have transferred to my phone and helped my life...lol. Seeing as the winners in these categories (and most of the categories) are supposedly determined by votes, you can imagine my disappointment when I didn't win that year and my shock when I won the next...a year in which even I didn't vote for myself.
I remember in 2013 (or was it 2012) when I got my nomination information and checked their site, I saw a scrolling note that said any person who had won an award on one category would not be eligible to win again for another 4 years to allow other people in the industry enjoy winning. Since then, I have noticed re-occurance of names in the nominees list....names of people who had won before (myself included). Since the organisers had said winning meant not being able to win for another 4 years, what exactly is the point of having them on the list? You guessed it...to raise funds from votes and drive free online publicity.
I didn't attend the 2014 edition but my former colleague, Jude, did. He asked to pick up my plaque and certificate for me but he was told they were not ready (how the hell do you have an award ceremony when the plaques are not ready?) and they would be sent. Weeks later I sent an email to inquire about my plaque and the reply I got from Kazeem Popoola said that I had to pay 10, 000 Naira to have it sent with a penalty of 5000 Naira for not attending. I was shocked. I then explained that they didn't have my plaque ready for collection at the ceremony and then I got another email asking me to pick it up from the Lagos office at Ikeja and pay 3000 Naira. I never picked up the plaque.
6. Attention to detail:
I can't go into how many times my name has been misspelled or how many times I have seen names of people I know being misspelled. It's sad. Like how does my alias, TobeDaDiva, which is on every single online platform I operate and is said so clearly on air be mistaken for Tobe David? Would it really be too much work to get that right? All they need to do is search online and proper names would come up.
7. The event:
The 2013 edition I attended with my sister is the most disorganised and embarrassing event I have ever been at...and this includes rowdy village weddings and burials. I was embarrassed because this was the first time I was going with my sister to an industry event in Lagos and quite frankly, I had set a rather high bar with the kinds of events I had attended with her in Abuja, so it was disappointing. First the set up was poor. The pace looked like it could have done with some more cleaning and the deco was drab. The red carpet and event started about 4 hours behind schedule. The hosts were so under dressed...one of them wore a lousy dress with what looked like rubber flip flops. It was so distasteful. The DJ was off, the sound was noisy, the fashion show they incorporated was lousy and thanks to the ridiculous number of nominees, the event went on for ever. It was horrible. I decided never to attend again. The next year, the friends I had who attended had the same experience. Last night, my friend Jenny, who was nominated, got dressed and went to the venue. She didn't last 30 minutes. It was too much for her to take. I hear that the event started late as usual. Also, the poster names with which the event was sold - Charlie Boy and Lady Dee as hosts and Denrele on the Red Carpet - were not at the event and there was no apology for those. Some award categories were omitted. I hear one winner had to go back stage to demand that the winner in her category be made known. I also hear that someone was declared winner of a category he wasn't nominated in. It was a disaster. Reports from Abuja (and that's me trying to be all professional...lol) say that the equipment at the event kept failing, there were no event fillers and the host ended the event 3 time...the first two times, he came back to apologies and call out a few more awards.
It is disappointing that 6 years after, an award ceremony that has the potential to be a true indicator and reference point in the Nigerian broadcasting space is still at a point where it is becoming increasingly shameful to associate with. It feels like every year, Kazeem and his team say to each other " it's that time of the year to make these people feel important and make money off them" and they pull out what ever list of names they can get their hands on, edit it a bit and then put out the long list.
Admittedly, the broadcast space is so thickly competitive and every OAP is trying to be a sort of mini god. Being recognised in things like this does so much to boost our ego and make us feel relevant so it is beautiful that the main aim is to recognise people nation wide. But I find it insulting that the NBMA process and ceremony comes across more as a pity party...like "oh these OAPs have nothing to look forward to each year, let's excite them and give them poop kaka, they have no choice, they will be happy". I feel like the NBMA uses us to gain social media figures, make money through votes and generally create a false fanfare that makes them seem relevant in the scheme of things.
My 2 cents to Kazeem Popoola and the NMBA Organising team
Organise your house. Create a reasonable nomination template. Don't nominate every single person in the industry who's name you have come across. Do research and actually listen to and watch people's shows and productions. Have a solid criteria and standard for excellence so that everyone nominated knows that the people he/she is nominated with are actually people that are worth the competition. If you want the winners to be determined by votes, then let it be by vote. Like really truly, be by votes. If you, at any point, feel a person has won too many times and will always have the clout to pull in the highest votes, don't nominate him/her. Give him/her a recognition award. Period.
For the event. You obviously know nothing about event planning. Hire a professional. Invite the media as partners, regardless of their nomination status. Most importantly, stop selling your event on the weight of figures and personalities who never show up. Before you promote a person's attendance to the event, be sure and actually close the deal. Don't come out and say Mr. XY will be at the event just because you had a phone conversation with his friend who told you he would make him do it.
Media Professionals are not a band of individuals desperate for attention and recognition...don't get me wrong, we love it when it comes. But you, Kazeem Popoola and the rest of the NBMA organising team can't continue to claim to celebrate us while you inherently insult us with your methods and delivery. Some of us are working hard to ensure that we are taken seriously as Media Professionals globally; your award ceremony is doing us more of a career and industry disservice with what you keep bringing to the table. Step it up.

Tobechi Nneji is a Media Personality and budding actress.

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