, LAGOS, May 3 – Nigeria\’s private pay TV station NN24 on Monday began a 24-hour news coverage service in a first for the west African country, its promoters told AFP.
"Today is the realisation of a dream which started about five years ago to launch a TV project that will metamorphose into 24-hour news bulletins, seven days a week and 365 days a year," NN24 boss Anthony Dara said in its stylishly furnished office in the Ikeja business district of Lagos.
"Our News on the Hour has started and we are grateful to God for this," he said.
Dara said he was motivated to begin the "ambitious project" because of his personal skills and experience, having worked with Bloomberg TV in London and Snell and Wilcox Limited, a world class TV broadcast equipment manufacturer.
"I am a broadcast engineer by training and I have to leverage on my skills to do something different which is what NN24 is all about," the 36-year-old told AFP, amid feverish preparation ahead of the midday transmission.
As he spoke, studio engineers, reporters and newscasters got ready to kick off the programme on channel 414 on South African Digital Satellite DSTV.
Former CNN vice president and partner in the project, Kenneth Tiven, was seen by AFP giving instructions to studio enginners and broadcasters.
"We are counting down. From 12 midday today, viewers can hook on to NN24 on DSTV," Dara assured.
He said the Lagos-based channel had a content partnership deal with CNN International, distribution deal with South African DSTV and advertising arrangement with Nigerian firm MediaCom.
"We have a three-year plan to plant ourselves in the market, in the minds of the people. We want to establish our credentials, establish our unique position and build leadership from there," he said.
"We are aspiring to be the premium national TV news channel. In terms of branding if you talk about Sky, you think British, if you talk about CNN, you think about the United States of America. NN24 is an African concept with global reach," he said.
"We are working on a shoestring budget with the best hands capable because we see ourselves as trying to reinvent the industry in Africa," he said.
Dara said some eight million dollars had been spent on the project.
"Much of the spending is on operational and human costs, while around 2.8 million dollars go on broadcast equipment imported from the US, Britain, India and Japan," he said.
Some 100 journalists, engineers and other supporting staff, were on the company\’s payroll.
"Most of our staff are professionals and are 100 percent Nigerians. But we have Kenneth Tiven, a former vice president of CNN here with us as both technical and financial partner," he said.
Dara said there was local input into the facilities at the sprawling office complex located within the premises of the country\’s independent Newswatch magazine.
The TV channel had a test run for a month from March 15 to the midddle of last month, he said.
Dara said obtaining an operating license from the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) was very easy because of good planning.
"The NBC said our presentation had been the best so far. They said we had the content plan, the business plan, the financial plan, the technology plan as well as the personel plan," he said.
"We had the five key elements taken care of before we made our presentation at the NBC," he said.
Three channels in South Africa — eNews Channel, SABC News International and CNBC Africa — also run a 24-hour news servi