British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Igbo and Yoruba services were launched yesterday for Nigeria and the West and Central Africa regions. The launch is part of the largest investment in the BBC World Service since the 1940s. It is funded by the United Kingdom government.
The Igbo service is mainly for audiences in eastern and south-eastern Nigeria as well as the large Igbo-speaking diaspora, while the Yoruba service targets south-west Nigeria, Benin and Togo as well as other parts of the diaspora.
These digital services will include exciting short format audio, video, graphics and illustrations.
Twice daily, the teams will produce an episode of BBC Minute – keeping people in touch with the world in 60 seconds.
The editorial agenda will reflect not only balanced impartial news, but also a rich mix of trending topics, sports, entertainment, business, health, education and women.
There will be original content through the network of reporters on a variety of stories and issues that matter to local people and resonate across the region.
Digital content created daily for the website and social media platforms will cover a broad agenda with a strong focus on audience interactivity. This is in keeping with the BBC News editorial strategy of not only being news providers but also providing enriching analysis, explainers and features.
Speaking on the launch of the two Nigerian language programmes, editorial lead of the project, Peter Okwoche, said: “Both services will concentrate on original journalism from their target regions but will also feature stories from Africa and the main global stories. BBC Igbo and Yoruba will provide a platform for debate on the main issues of interest to audiences and give voices to a wide spectrum of people. There will also be a strong focus on women.”
Head of West Africa, Oluwatoyosi Ogunseye, on her part, said: “Delivering content and engaging with the Igbo and Yoruba audiences in their mother tongues is authentic, exciting and refreshing. The BBC is passionate about original journalism that adds value and this is what we want to achieve with these services. These platforms will deliver independent, objective and original news to meet the needs of our audiences in Nigeria and West Africa.”
The BBC Igbo Service editor is Adline Okere and there is a team for the programme. Before their employment, members of the team said: “It was disbelief at first sight.” And they wondered: Is this the same BBC?
“When many of us saw the BBC vacancies advertised on different platforms, our first thoughts were, “unbelievable”, “definitely a scam”, “Wow!!! BBC Igbo? Really?” but on a different level we thought to just ‘give it a go.’
“When we found out it was real, some of us didn’t think we stood a chance, I mean this was the BBC – a trusted and enduring international brand, surely they would hire better people than us.”
A commitment honoured
The BBC always reiterates its commitment to hire people from ‘every background’ and that in itself is evident in the composition of the team.
“We all come from different backgrounds and status. This difference is the very reason that unites us,” the organisation said.
The Igbo language service is one of the six new languages launched in Africa and one of the 12 new languages funded with £291 million by the British government.
The Igbo language is a colourful and flavourful language! “Ilulu bụ mman Igbo ji eri okwu” means “like the palmoil, proverbs are the oil with which Igbos eat words.” This simply goes to say that the Igbo language cannot be described as plain because it is spiced with idiomatic expressions, riddles, parables, allegories and a huge cultural influence that make up the language.
“We hope to retain and expand the many spectacular elements of the language as we serve the Igbo people who make up one of the 11 major tribes in Nigeria.
“Our team of young, energetic and highly creative journalists are ready to bring BBC standard news to our Igbo audiences. We also tell those unique Igbo stories using our very own words, merging centuries of tradition with decades of expertise and novel broadcasting techniques,” said the BBC.
First impressions of the BBC
One of the first things that hit you on your first day is the fact that the BBC is a galaxy of its own, especially in terms of technological innovation and journalism style.
The Lagos bureau is where a cross-section of co-existing larger society of Nigeria is represented. It comprises the Yoruba, Igbo and Pidgin services.
The organisation explained further: “The energy and synergy within the BBC is amazing! One I would liken to the nature of the mother hen and her chicks. It gave us a sense of welcome and belonging to the global BBC family.
“As language services, even though we represent different cultural groups, we are one, at the BBC, working together as one team.
“Yoruba service, one of the other three services launched to serve audiences in Nigeria and West Africa, will be working out of the same bureau as us, alongside the Pidgin news service. The diversity of the group looks like it should be a challenge; instead, it is a blessing as we continue to imbibe the very best of what everyone has to offer whether it be strong work ethics, mutual respect, trust or professionalism.
World class training
As part of our induction into the BBC, we went through weeks of world-class training, courtesy of the BBC Academy, for which we will be forever grateful. It was a period of unlearning and relearning everything we knew about journalism, broadcasting and social media news skills.
“We had skilled trainers who patiently took us through the BBC way of doing things and ensured that everyone was carried along. They even offered extra sessions at spare time to anyone who was still experiencing challenges.
“For the first time ever, through the BBC, fair and balanced Igbo stories, news and content will be available to our audiences across various digital platforms, capturing the female and younger audiences; an uncharted territory for the BBC.
“ We, just like our other fellow language services, Yoruba and Pidgin services, have been given the opportunity to tell our stories and infuse originality into the execution of our ideas, with our audiences at the heart of all that we do.”