John Momoh (OON), Founder and CEO of Channels Television. An ace broadcast journalist with a vast experience spanning close to four decades. Before founding Channels, John worked variously as News Anchor, Senior Reporter and Senior Producer for Nigeria’s National Radio and Television Stations, (Radio Nigeria and Nigerian Television Authority).
The journey into the entrepreneurial side of John Momoh is not without thorns and at some point he wanted to pull the plug. The Corporate culture at Channels Televisions today, has become the yardstick to measure up other broadcast channels and broadcasters. Here, we take a walk into the path where it all started from.
“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.
I 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 after fifteen years, 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 specialty, was well within grasp. With great anticipation towards achieving a fulfilling, purpose-driven life, I started a production facilities company in 1993″.
Overcoming the challenges of a startup TV station was enormous for John on many fronts as he had to battle both the political and financial landscapes to survive. It was during one of the most challenging times ever, in Nigeria’s recent political history flickered with military dictatorships.
With limited capital, he applied for a license in 1993. To launch a free-to-air news television station. With a resolute determination to succeed, the commitment of John’s family, a loan from a local retail bank, and the eventual support of a few friends, and a committed core staff of fifteen people, Channels TV began test transmission two years later within the municipality of Ikeja, Lagos. But for a dogged spirit of faith and a committed wife, the sudden rush of early setbacks which was experienced then, should have completely broken his resolve to continue in the pursuit of what rapidly disintegrated into an unlikely dream. He had to endure the wearisome of energy-sapping trials, uncertainty and, a stagnating period of financial insecurity. 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 were approached, it was too high-risk a call.
Also, talking about the infrastructural challenge facing the company, especially the cost of powering generator sets. He said “we run a generator for the most part, so we are used to it. We have always done, ever since we started Channels. The national grid is our back-up power.
But this last time (national fuel scarcity) it was very scary. We were still running on our reserve of petrol and some people came to our aid. We were lucky because during the crisis, if you did not have petrol you had no choice but to halt or limit operations, like some broadcasters and banking institutions did. We have three operations running from this organization, all within the same building; terrestrial television, digital television and then Channels 24 consecutively. So if the petrol shortage lasted longer than it did, we would have been in deep crisis.”
Stemming the Tide
The political terrain posed a big challenge to the establishment of Channels TV even in a democracy. In one instance fake news about the President’s ill health which may lead to his resignation was spread on an independent news wire. The information was broadcast by Channels TV, just like other reputable media houses did. This didn’t go down well with the government which shut down the station and detained some members of staff. “I actually apologized to the former president in a letter, explaining the source of the story and that we meant no harm. He acknowledged my letter, wrote back saying he understood, and so we went back on air. This is one of the hazards of the profession and it also helped us ensure that we do the checks even much more than we were doing. We get a story and before we break it we cross check and double check and triple check. It was a learning curve for us.”
“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.”
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.
The company achieved its best online performance yet, with the coverage of the just concluded Nigerian elections by breaking all records in online viewership in Nigeria. Channels TV has been recognized as 2013 Convergence Leader in News Media Broadcast (by the West African Know how Intelligence Unit). Rated the most RELIABLE and TRUSTED source of information in Nigeria by a Reuters and BBC Poll.
When asked about his accomplishments, he said “I haven’t accomplished all that I think I should accomplish. It is a very interesting question. I’m not really afraid of anything but it may not be the whole truth to say that. What I may be afraid of is not to have fulfilled God’s will for me. I think I need to be able to know what the Lord wants me to do; part of which is to use the instrument that he has given me along with the members of my staff, to impact on the human race, to provide information, to be able to improve their lives and to be more informed to make the right decisions to challenge their curiosity. And if I’m not able to succeed in that, then that is a continuing task; it’s a never-ending story.”