Chris Ubosi- Beating The Competition
As we prepare to receive Ubosi to the studio, we have mixed emotions as we do not know what to expect from the CEO of Megalectrics Limited (operators of four radio stations in Nigeria: Classic FM 97.3, The Beat 99.9FM, Naija FM 102.7FM and the new Lagos Talks 91.3FM) and MTech Communications. I call him to ask if he needs directions to the studio and he lets me know he is outside already. I step outside to see him roll up in the Lexus LX 570 he got from his wife Ijeoma as a surprise birthday gift last year.
As we start the shoot, he admits to not knowing what to do as he is not usually in front of the camera but he keeps the conversation alive as we switch between music in Nigeria to Rihanna cancelling on a show she was supposed to perform at in 2013. Beat FM hosts one of the biggest concerts of the year – The Beat FM Christmas Party Concert, which has hosted international acts like Migos, Krept & Konan and our very own Davido, Patoranking, Wande Coal, Adekunle Gold, Lil Kesh, Simi and Falz to mention a few.
Ubosi (the ‘boss’ is in his name), who just won a Daily Times award for Impact to Society, has also found a way to strike a balance between traditional and innovative media. Speaking with Guardian Life, he gives us an insight into being his own competition, the power of research and the key to it all – passion!
Nigeria Unveils First National Pavilion
At The 57th Venice Arte Biennale
How About NOW? Is the first ever Nigerian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale which was unveiled at the 57th Venice Arte Biennale featuring immersive installations by mixed media artist Peju Alatise, award-winning visual artist, writer and photographer Victor Ehikhamenor and celebrated dancer Qudus Onikeku which interpreted the comprehensive theme How About NOW? The installation was curated by the director of RELE Gallery Adenrele Sonariwo and writer Emmanuel Iduma. The pavilion was opened and commissioned by the Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki at Scoletta dei Battioro e dei Tiraoro’ Campo San Stae on the Grand Canal with the support of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture.
Ehikhamenor’s The Biography of the Forgotten is influenced by classical Benin art and the effect of colonialism on cultural heritage as it pays homage to those that came before and their contributions to the art world. Flying Girls by Alatise is an installation of eight winged life-size girls based on the story of a ten-year old girl who worked as a housemaid in Lagos while dreaming of a realm where she was free. Onikeku’s trilogy of performance film entitled Right Here, Right Now, explores the workings of body, memory and its connection to national consciousness through dance.
The Nigerian pavilion was opened on the 13th of May 2017 and will close on the 26th of November 2017.
The big leap into broadcasting
With a Bachelors degree in Quantity Surveying and a Masters in Project Management, one might wonder how Ubosi strayed into the evolving world of media. Talking about the liberalisation of media, he says he ventured into this field because private broadcasting was just taking off and it was ideal to get into the field early enough. As for his company MTech Communications they found a niche in the market along with the likes of MTN, Econnet (now called Airtel), Glo who won their licenses but hadn’t focused on value added services which MTech invested in heavily and has given them a dominating presence in the industry up to now.
A firm believer of education being a key, Ubosi speaks on the influence of his degrees in his chosen field saying, “I think it just teaches you to be more disciplined and to approach problems from a solution standpoint.” Revealing that he was just 16-years-old when he got into the university he goes further to say that, “What you study at the age of 16 can hardly be and should not be necessarily what you do for the rest of your life.” Preaching the gospel of a good education and the use of previously learned discipline as a tool for advancement in his newly found discipline, he is grateful to his educative background and the mindset formed to take charge in the field of media.
Transitioning from science to media, he uses the tool of research and study methods to improve on his craft. When asked about the challenges faced in his journey, he says, “ I don’t like to say challenges. Life in itself is a challenge, I never really see anything as a challenge or as a problem, I just see it as something that you need to get over.” Truly taking life as a learning process he admits to facing things the best way he could and even though it wasn’t as good as he would have liked to, he also had times when he exceeded his own expectations.
Disrupting the status quo one beat at a time
The inception of the Beat FM in September 2009 brought a new contemporary sound to our radio – we couldn’t get enough. Taking a gamble like that kept us excited about what the station would be doing in the near future and in almost eight years they have stayed true with consistency and drive. Ubosi attributes this to an excellent team, attitude and good research saying, “First of all I have an excellent team around me but also I have always been somebody who is not arrogant, I don’t arrogate knowledge to myself. So before we embark on any project we do extensive research and sometimes very expensive ones as well. I mean when we started Beat FM we did research and we saw the gaps in the market, same thing with Classic FM, same thing with Naija FM and same thing now with Lagos Talks.” This is not to say that some of his decisions have not been based on a gut feeling but mostly he goes with what the research says.
He introduces Lagos Talks into the conversation, a new talk radio station just a couple of months old. According to him Lagos Talks (91.3FM) talks about contemporary issues that affect Nigerians. He goes on to say, “Nigerians are one of the most politically and socially aware people and it just gives them a voice to be heard, it gives the government a voice, it gives everybody a voice to bring their own side of the story to the fore.”
He admits to not having a favourite radio station out of all the radio stations, “To be honest with you, I really don’t have a favourite, it’s like having children, you love them. I love them all.” He however talks about the radio station that he feels appeals to his demographic which is Classic FM because they play music he grew up with. “Some days I am listening to Classic and I just get lost, I just keep thinking about growing up, what I was doing when those songs were being played and the like.”
He shares the expansion of the stations as he reveals the commencement of operations of the Beat FM, Classic FM and Naija FM on the 15th of May. He says further, “We are opening Beat FM in Abuja in a couple of months and we opened London last year.”
Building a bridge between the past and the future
There has been an ongoing discussion between the tug of war between traditional media and digital media and so many media houses have been left behind as the world is becoming a global village with no intention on waiting for anyone to play catchup. Ubosi gives his two cents saying, “Media is converging, the line is becoming fainter and fainter.” Using one of his studios as a case study he says, “ Traditional media refers to your ususal TV, radio but now you have radio TV – one of our studios is being hooked up so that we have a YouTube channel that just shows 24/7 what is going on.” Asides that they have a heavy social media presence, streaming concerts live, stations having apps and podcasts. To him it is all about the consumer as he says, “The key thing is that the lines are becoming very blurred, it is now all consumer driven. You follow the consumer to where and how he wants to consume.” Speaking on the millennials, he describes their consumer lifestyle as being on demand, “They want to do it when they want to do it not when you want to.”
Discussing the approach to making sure that every demographic benefits from the media, he reiterates the power of research saying, “That is why I say a lot of what we do is research-based and so we have town hall meeting, town hall research groups where we sit down and ask how you want to consume media. We do research and talk to the demographic of each of the stations and they tell us how they want to consume media.” He goes on to say, “So it’s up to us to have the media, or bouquet ready for the consumer however they want to consume it.” Going further to explain the mindset of people who have refused to accept change, he says, “That’s the mistake people make, they arrogantly want to do it how they want to do it but you forget that you don’t broadcast for yourself, you broadcast to an audience and you have to follow that audience and do what it is that they want to do.” Maintaing the power of the consumer over the output of the product he says, “We follow our consumers and that is key to adopting any new technology that they may be taking on.”
For the love of the media
You cannot mention ten names in media without mentioning Chris Ubosi and no matter how it sounds, he has paid his dues in the industry. Talking about his driving force he attributes it to good old passion, “First thing is that I love media, I love radio.” Asides his work with the radio stations, he is into other ventures but his main office still remains at the radio station. He explains saying, “The key thing is that I love what I do so I get up every morning and I am thinking of a new idea, a new thing to do.” Aside from his love for radio, he talks about the pleasure he gets from bringing social issues to the fore with programs which have changed the narrative on different stories, evoked responses from the government, aided a certain course and spurred individuals to becoming community helpers. He says excitedly, “Social responsibility is a key part of what we do, we highlight a lot of issues that we are glad help to bring change in the community and those are the key motivating factors for me.”
Of course he has competitors in the field but that doesn’t faze him or what he does. Laughing as he speaks on the issue he says, “I never really look at the other person, I have people who sit down and study what we do all the time but I just never do that. I feel that I am my own competition, we are our own biggest competition and our competition is global.” He goes on to say, “ I am a very content person so I am really happy with what we have and what we have been able to achieve over a relatively short period of time.” For him, his ultimate goal is to double down and keep the listeners happy.