Is it possible that the Hausa Service of the British Broadcasting Service, aka BBC would be relocating to Nigeria from the London base of the BBC World Service? This is the hint Intervention is getting from sources speaking of the Hausa Service being given six months to do so. It is an internal matter, Intervention has been told by someone in London who should know but who also has not got more details immediately. The move is being connected to a cost cutting strategy. The idea is that they would save costs by moving the service to Nigeria where a substantial number of the staff are based and where the Naira rate makes things cheaper.
It is just as well that Nigeria might have been chosen because it has remained among the highest BBC listening countries on a global scale. Dr. Tasiu Abubakar who did his PhD thesis on the consumption of BBC broadcasts in Northern Nigeria in a British university in 2011 described Nigeria as “the BBC‘s largest market in Africa or the BBC‘s largest English market in the world”, making it what some people would call a strategic market for a great power such as Britain which has interests to protect in Nigeria.
The question would be if Nigeria would be the better for it should it happen. Already, BBC has expanded its language service to Igbo, Yoruba and Pidgin English. That move completely annuls the charge that the BBC has been a bad influence on the National Question in Nigeria by exposing a section of the country to its broadcasts to the exclusion of the other sections. With the new language services, both the BBC and Nigeria have overcome the paradox captured by the commentator who said that northerners are heard more on international media by using a local language – Hausa while southerners are heard more on the local media – print but through English, a foreign language. This is further enhanced by the closure of the elite – mass dichotomy among its listenership through the introduction of the Pidgin English broadcasts.
What is left as a puzzle is whether moving a key language service from its London basement resolves the charge of ‘imaginative geographies’ in the framing of its stories against other parts of the world. This is not a uniquely Nigerian complaint against international broadcasters generally but it is this complaint that makes it an accomplice in insensitive reporting in popular perception. The perceived insensitivity occurs in the ‘natural’ tendency of all text producers to look at the world from where they stand rather than anything called objectively.
What some scholars of media geopolitics have held against the BBC in particular is that the Hausa nationality of most of its correspondents in Nigeria compounds ‘imaginative geographies’ for it in its coverage of Nigeria. In other words, those correspondents see the world too from where they stand and where one stands is a function of identity – culture, norms, religion, values, etc. This is a problem the additional languages it is now broadcasting in Nigeria is not immunized against, meaning that the BBC risks multiple conception of Nigeria with its expansion of its language services in Nigeria if its quality control does not remain extra ordinarily tight
What every scholar of media geopolitics, however, recognise is the fluidity of the role international broadcasters play in a continent such as Africa which has no international broadcasters of its own. In other words, while international broadcasters have the burden of ‘imaginative geographies’ to carry in their reporting of Africa mainly in terms of violent conflicts, corruption and chaos, it is equally difficult to imagine what Africa would be like without the international broadcasters and their disciplinary impact on power on the continent. Only time would tell how this balance plays out should the Hausa Service of the BBC make Nigeria its operational base.
Nobody confirmed this story just as nobody spoken to was surprised by the possibility. Intervention did not speak directly to anyone at the BBC but it learnt authoritatively that the service is, indeed, moving to Nigeria. It is a flowing story anyway.