John Momoh: Celebrating a Cerebral Broadcaster at 60

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By Eric Elezuo

Not many will believe that John, as he is fondly called is already in his diamond age, celebrating 60 wonderful years of existence. This because the ebullient broadcasted has conquered the field of journalism as well as mastered it.

Born John Olatchy Momoh on July 1, 1957 in Lagos, Nigeria, to a cook of a father, the prolific broadcaster is widely recognized in Nigeria as a transformative industry pioneer with the 37-year-long career in news television broadcasting.

He is a Nigerian broadcast journalist and the Chairman and CEO of Channels TV, an independent and multiple award winning 24-hour news and media television channel based in Lagos, an outfit he established out of sheer joy of practicing what he loves most.

His prolific nature provided him a column as he was chronicled in Mike Awoyinfa and Dimgba Igwe new book titled 50 WORLD EDITORS—Conversations with Journalism Masters on Trends and Best Practices. This is in addition to delivering the maiden edition of Distinguished Lecture Series of the University of Lagos Mass Communication Alumni Association entitled “The Mass Media: Setting the Nigerian Agenda“.

John Momoh, whose family can boast of seasoned professionals including former Minister of Information, Tony Momoh, was brought up in Lagos State, and has built a commercial satellite television station with a reputable integrity irrespective of the tainted outlook of the profession.

John Momoh began his strides to glory with a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication from the University of Lagos, and followed it up with a master’s degree in International Law and Diplomacy from the same institution.

In June 2013, he furthered his horizon in the intellectual cycle when he received the Lagos Business School’s Distinguished Alumni Award, and capped it up with a professional Diploma from the UK’s Thomson Foundation. He is also an alumnus of the Harvard Business School, as well as Fellow of the Nigerian Guild of Editors and the Nigerian Institute of Journalism.

 

Prior to hitting it big with the establishment of Channels Television, which he founded in 1995, John worked variously as news anchor, senior reporter and senior producer for Nigeria’s National Radio and Television Stations, Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria and the Nigerian Television Authority. His exceptional qualities at NTA made him a household name, and to most people, a reason to listen to the National News at 9pm daily.

In appreciation of his standard performances, the government of Nigeria in December 2005, honoured him with “Officer of the Order of the Niger” award.

In 2006, he was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Nigerian Information Society and, two years later, he was nominated as Nigeria’s Entrepreneur of the Year by the Fate Foundation.

In October 2014, he joined the Board of Directors of the Constituency for Africa (CFA), an African-focused Organization located in Washington, District of Columbia. In November of the same year, John Momoh was honoured the Leadership Award at the 2014 Planet Africa Awards held at the Grand Victorian Convention Centre in Canada.

John Momoh is a Fellow of The International Visitor Programme (IVP), an initiative of the United States Information Agency, a “Chevening” Fellow and a Fellow of the “African Future Leaders”, both initiatives of the British Government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He is a member of the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences based in New York, and has served as a juror for the International Emmy Awards.

With his Channels News Media, he has been able to provide jobs to a teeming number of youths, as well as giving high profile journalism training to most distinguished broadcasters in Nigeria and elsewhere today.

The company is staffed with some of the best Broadcast journalists in the country, with a staff strength of about 326, some of whom have received training in Europe, South Africa and the United Kingdom and the United States, and many also bagging numerous awards of different categories, nationally and internationally.

Channels team has produced feature programmes, which have received commendation throughout the country; video footage of events and happenings in Nigeria, shot by Channels News crews have been used widely by reputable broadcast organisations such as BBC-TV, CNN, ITN and McNeil/Lehrer News hour.
John is also serving as a juror for the AIB Awards presented by the Association for International Broadcasters. In November 2016, John Momoh was sworn in as the Chairman of Broadcasting Organizations of Nigeria (BON)

He tells his own story via www.kemifilani.com:

“The story of Channels Television, Africa’s most awarded Broadcast Station is an interesting one. It’s an amazing 20 year history which has seen professionalism and enterprise fused into one, to result in what is today, the most trusted, and most successful news organisation in Nigeria.
”I set sail within Nigeria’s radio and television broadcasting environment some 38 years ago, to pursue a career path as a broadcast journalist. I started out as a junior and then senior reporter; news anchor; news editor; and then finally, as a key producer respectively, for Nigeria’s National Radio network of (FRCN) and the National Television Authority (NTA). Prior to that, I had a two year stint with Ogun Radio Abeokuta.

“After 15 years as a young broadcast journalist I had cultivated a strong ethic, to uphold the highest ideals in balanced reporting, and the right to adequately inform the citizenry. Increasingly, however, in the same breadth of time, an unquenchable desire to achieve a purposeful and consequential professional excellence seemingly overtook me.

“Along with that desire, the dream to attain a more fulfilling and worthwhile future through a pattern of work I could influence and have complete control over, became a central focus of thought for me. In a nutshell, I had reached a tipping point in my life and a place of absolute restlessness.
And so, propelled by a strong urge and passion to create an innovative professional paradigm, I resigned from the NTA without any tangible evidence of financial security.  Nonetheless, I was convinced without any doubts that an untapped “Greenfield” opportunity with specific reference to my area of speciality, was well within grasp.

“With great anticipation towards achieving a fulfilling, purpose-driven life, I started a production facilities company in 1993. It was during one of the most challenging times ever, in Nigeria’s recent political history. It was at a time during, which sub-Saharan Africa’s political and economic evolution was littered with flickers of dying ambers of dire military dictatorships across the continent.

“Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole had begun to recover from the brutality of the lost decade of the 80s; an experience that was met with the full force of a US-led World Bank that was insistent on adopting an austerity driven-approach towards helping many African countries out of an irrepressible bulwark of decadent poverty.
“A major condition-precedent set by the World Bank then, was the mandatory deregulation of the media as a precursor to ushering in a new era of democratic governance. On reflection, it was indeed, a timely development for me.

“By 1993, I had successfully applied for a license to launch a free-to-air news television station. With limited capital and a resolute determination to succeed, the commitment of my family, a loan from a local retail bank, and the eventual support of a few friends, and a committed core staff of fifteen people, we began test transmission two years later for Channels TV within the municipality of Ikeja, Lagos.

“But for a dogged spirit of faith and a committed wife, the sudden rush of early setbacks which we experienced then, should have completely broken one’s resolve to continue in the pursuit of what rapidly disintegrated into an unlikely dream. Looking back, however, I am extremely glad that one’s conviction that Nigeria needed an independent, cutting edge television news service did not falter. It is that sense of purpose and intrepid commitment, which enabled my family and I to endure the wearisomeness of energy-sapping trials, uncertainty and, a stagnating period of financial insecurity.
Nonetheless, we persisted in our drive to remain solvent. The raisin d’tre for Channels was to ensure the development of a “Fourth Estate” with the aim of cultivating and upholding the highests ideals in balanced reporting and the right to be adequately informed.

“So, in spite of the early pitfalls and near collapses, we had to survive. And survive we did, bootstrapping our way to financial stability, cognisant of the self-instructed fact that there was no turning back until our mission is accomplished.
At the beginning, mainstream advertisers including multinationals and their representative advertising agencies, the mainstay of any free-to-air television station, were reluctant to come to the table. A dedicated news channel was not an attractive bet and for those investors that we approached, it was too high-risk a call. For those who are familiar with the history of Nigeria, this period was during the Sanni Abacha years.

“Nonetheless, from its humble origins and through sheer persistence, Channels TV has subsequently, during the course of the past twenty years, won Nine out of fourteen, of Nigeria’s Media Merit Award Trust’s coveted roll call of honour and distinction, as Nigeria’s most outstanding national broadcaster. The station was also crowned Best TV Station In Africa in 2014, by the African Achievers Award Trust.”

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