Radio involves the process by which messages are sent through electrical waves. In other words, sound would be sent and received through the waves (Sambe, 2008:75). The history of Radio dates back to the 19th Century when Samuel Morse invented the electric telegraph. According to Bittner (1989:93), Gugielmo Marconi built on this invention to produce electromagnetic impulses which would be sent through the air without the use of wires. The voice was carried over long distances.

Thus in 1866, signals were transmitted from England to America without wires. Sambe (2008:75) states that, in 1988, Heinrick Hertz, working on the electromagnetic theory propounded earlier by a British scientist James Clark Maxwell, produced the first radio waves. What is known today as “Television” was coined by a Frenchman called Persky. And the word is made up from Greek “tele” meaning at a distance” and the Latin “Videre” means “to see”. Boris Rozing, a Russian, is said to be the first person to build a television system. In fact, he is regarded as the Father of Television. In 1923, another Russian, Vladimir Zworykin improved on Boris Rozing’s. He developed and presented to the world an electronic camera known as iconoscope.

The final development in television as we see it today was between 1948 and 1952. This period was regarded as the formative years and it was at this time that quite a number of television sets came into use. At this time too, about 109 television stations were established. In Britain,about 20 stations were in operation. The period 1953 to 1960 was and has been regarded as the Golden Age of Television.


At the end of the unit, you should be able to:

  1. define Radio and Television
  2. explain the growth of radio and television in Nigeria
  3.  discuss ownership, control and deregulation of broadcasting in Nigeria.


3.1 Definition of Radio and Television

Radio can be defined as a medium used for sending and receiving messages through the air using electronic waves. It is also about the activity of broadcasting programmes for people to listen to the programmes being broadcast (Idebi, 2008:1). It can also be defined as the broadcasting of programmes for the public to listen to. It is the system of sending sound over a distance by transmitting electrical signals (BBC English Dictionary, 1992:946).

Television is defined as an audio-visual medium. It blends pictures with sound to produce a communication experience exhibited on the screen. It uses sound to explain the visuals presented on the screen. It addresses the emotion and intellect in a remarkable way (Owauamalam, 2007:238). Television uses the movement of images in a unique way or pattern to express thought and feelings in an exciting and appealing manner. Television is defined by the BBC English Dictionary (1992:1206) as the system of pictures and distance so that people can receive them on a television set.
From the definition, radio and television were a common phenomenon; they use electrical signals in sending out their messages.


  1. What is the major difference between radio and television?

3.2 The Growth of Radio in Nigeria

In Nigeria, radio started with the introduction of the Radio Distribution System in the year 1933 in Lagos by the British colonial government under the Department of Post and Telegraphs (P&T), according to Idebim (2008,P.3). The Radio Distribution System (RDS) was a reception base for the British Broadcasting Corporation and a relay station, through wire systems, with loudspeakers at the listening end. In 1935, the Radio Distribution System was changed to Radio Diffusion system. The aim was to spread the efforts of Britain and her allies during the Second World War through the BBC.

The Ibadan station was commissioned in 1939, followed by the Kano station in 1944. Later, a re-appraisal of radio broadcast objectives gave birth to the establishment in 1950 of the Nigerian Broadcasting Service (NBS). The NBS began broadcast in Lagos, Ibadan, Kaduna, Kano and Enugu on short wave and medium wave transmitters.

Through a Bill by the House of Representatives, the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) was established in 1956. The NBC took up the responsibilities of radio broadcast in Nigeria. The Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) was established in 1978. The Voice of Nigeria (VON) which served as the external service was established in 1990. With the creation of more states and each state wanting to propagate its people and culture, the pace for radio broadcast began in Nigeria and has spread fast across the length and breadth of the nation. Each state owns and operates at last one radio station.


  1. Give account for the rise and establishment of radio stations in Nigeria.

3.3 Television in Nigeria

The evolution of television in Nigeria followed a similar pattern as that of radio. The irony here is that while it was the Federal Government that started the first radio broadcasting station in the country, it was a regional government that first ventured into television broadcasting. On 11 October, 1959, the then Western Region sent out the first television signals in the whole of Nigeria and Africa (Sambe, 2008:101). The principal aim of establishing the Western Nigeria Television (WNTV) as was claimed by the proponents was to serve as surrogate teacher in improving the regional school systems that were handicapped by ill-qualified teachers or a shortage of them in certain subject areas.

The Eastern Regional Government followed by establishing its own station on October 1, 1960, the day Nigeria gained political independence from Britain. The aim was also for formal and non-formal
education. But sooner or later, the aims were abandoned and the station, just like that of the West, became fully commercial.
The Northern Regional Government established its own station and it came on air in April, 1962, as Radio-Television Kaduna (RTV Kaduna). Television stations were established in Nigeria with the ostensible reason of providing adequate services in education, and social and economic development. However, it was soon realised that they had gone commercial and depended heavily on foreign programmes.

The establishment and running or managing television stations remained in the hands of federal and state governments until Decree No.38 of 1992 that deregulated broadcasting media and established the National Broadcasting Commission. This paved the way for private ownership of the electronic media of radio and television stations especially in the southern parts of the country.


  1. Why did television stations abandon their initial aims and went commercial?

3.4 Ownership and Control of Broadcasting

Before the deregulation of 1992 by the Babangida administration, the broadcast media were solely owned and operated by federal and state governments. State governments established their stations to educate, inform and entertain their peoples, and actually did so during the Second Republic because they felt the National Television or the National Broadcasting Organisation existed to serve the interests and needs of the ruling party, by then the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) at the federal level, and in those states where the party was in control. According to Sambe (2008:109), other states administered by other political parties in opposition were either blacked out or given unfavorable coverage. Those who challenged this unorthodox form of democracy were told that the system of government that was being practised during this time meant “winner take all”. In order to ensure absolute control of the television, for example, the government redeployed the Director-General, a seasoned broadcaster to the Ministry of Information and appointed a party ally and a historian in his place.

Even now, the federal government dictates what should be broadcast and what should not. The state-owned broadcast stations are even worse in this aspect. When one tunes to any of such stations, most of news that is aired is about the governor of that state. Since the state government hires

and fires employees, the station dare not broadcast any news that is anti-government. News is always about what the governor and his team of political appointees wants to hear. The Government even regulates the news contents of private broadcast stations such as the Africa Independent Television (AIT).

To a certain extent, almost all if not all government-owned and -controlled broadcast media have become praise singers of government policies. At times, one listens to a one-hour broadcast news without coming up with anything that in real sense would be regarded as news.


How would you rate broadcast media in Nigeria?

3.5 Deregulation of Broadcast Media in Nigeria

The deregulation of broadcast media in 1992 paved the way for private ownership of the broadcast media stations in Nigeria. According to Idebi (2008:6), the first sets of radio and television stations were issued their licences of operation soon after the decree was promulgated. There were 14 television stations and 13 private radio stations, some of which were Clapperboard TV Channel 45, Lagos; Minaj System Television; Channel 38 Kaduna; and Africa Independent Television, Alagbado, Lagos.

Owuamalam (2007:32) states that each station is in competition with the others in their struggle to attract and retain a sizeable audience for its programmes. The competition, therefore, directs thought, as to what approach best suits a station to adopt in a bid to accomplish its task.

The competition may come in many forms, for example, programme producers who supply programmes to the station may find out that careful selection is made from the programmes and the ones that best suit the stations’ needs and objectives may be selected. This means that only programmes that satisfy the station’s audience would qualify for production by the station. If the newly established stations tend to meet the demands of the audiences, then the already existing ones may be threatened because the new ones may attempt to capture and retain the audience. The new stations are likely to come up with innovations in equipment to improve programme quality and delivery, and as such the audience may likely switch from the old to the new stations.


  1. In what ways does deregulation bring about competition in broadcast media?


We have explained the definition, the growth of radio in Nigeria, ownership and control of broadcasting, television in Nigeria and deregulation of broadcast media in Nigeria and how deregulation brought about the establishment of broadcast media stations and the competition between the old and new stations.


Ironically, radio broadcast was started by the federal government, while television began with the regional governments. The federal government joined the television race much later. The ownership and control of the broadcast media were left in the hands of both the federal and state governments until 1992 when the federal government decided to deregulate the broadcast media. Since then, a number of broadcast stations have been established and owned by private individuals or corporate organisations. With this new development, there is bound to be competition between the old and the new stations for audience control.


  1. What was responsible for deregulation of broadcast media in Nigeria?
  2.  What effect does deregulation have on broadcast media stations?
  3. How did Radio and Television begin in Nigeria?