A Fireside Chat with Cyril Stober

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...Celebrating 35 years of exemplary service to Nigeria

If you are looking for a permanent feature in your childhood memories, especially when it comes to television, Cyril Stober readily comes to mind. The veteran who retired from NTA after 35 years of meritorious service to Nigeria, was recently hosted in a Halo Fireside Chat where he bared his mind on many salient national issues, life after retirement and experience garnered on the job, which might likely culminate into a biography, Alex Enumah reports

Veteran Nigerian broadcaster, Cyril Stober, who cut his teeth in broadcasting, recently hung his boots with the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), where he once made his mark as a permanent feature on our television screens. Till he retired, his legendary “Good evening I am Cyril Stober and this is NTA news”, was a staple for every Nigerian family.

Born in Minna, Nigeria, he studied at Minna Government Secondary School and showed abilities in learning languages, so it wasn’t surprising that he received A1 level in English. It was still in Minna that he became a broadcaster with NTA Minna. He soon moved to the network news and became a favourite reading prime time news with his signature dressing of native attire, cap and his glasses.

His eloquence and professionalism earned him a legendary status in the Nigerian broadcasting industry as a lot of young people dreamt of becoming broadcasters because of the professionalism he displayed while delivering the news.

Recently, to honour and acknowledge his 35 meritorious years to Nigeria, he was hosted in Abuja to a Halo Fireside Chat by Oghogho Odoko, founder of Halo. According to Odoko, the Halo is a community of Christian creatives and a platform for them to express themselves. He further noted that the Fireside Chat is a programme where veterans in distinguished fields are interviewed for the creatives to learn from their life experiences.

Speaking on why he decided to invite Cyril Stober, he said, “I heard he retired and he has served in broadcasting for 42 years, that’s a lot of experience and he has been an upstanding citizen of the country, he is exemplary, he someone we all looked up to as children.”

Stober on the other hand, while fielding questions reminisced on his experiences as a broadcaster. According to him, although he retired from the service four years ago, he had continued working in private capacity. Stober who revealed that he ventured into broadcasting by accident said this is his 42nd year in his chosen career path.

He said, “Growing up I never thought that I would have anything to do with broadcasting. I wanted to be an engineer, but when that didn’t work, I found out that I was drawn to the news media. The first time I heard my voice on radio, it was a church programme which was recorded and played back on NBC radio Kaduna, at that point I was excited and that’s when it all started.”

Stober who said his love for broadcasting has kept him on the job, hinted that he was writing a book on his experiences as a broadcaster.

Delving into some of the politics while on the job, the veteran Nigerian broadcaster, Cyril Stober has disclosed that the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has always been harder on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) than private owned Television or Radio stations as against public perception.

Stober who said this while reacting to the suspension on DAAR Communications PLC owners of Africa Independent Television (AIT) and Raypower FM, said the NTA is always penalised for every breach of the broadcasting code while private stations violate certain code and don’t get sanctioned

He said, “For NTA, you are bound to respect certain rules and when there are breaches, NBC comes harder on NTA than private media contrary to what most people think. Recently they had some issues with AIT and a lot of people said if it was NTA they won’t do anything, that’s not true. Every breach, NBC penalises NTA and they don’t do that with private media.

The veteran however regretted that the NTA is not operating as an ideal public outfit which is to serve the interest of the public rather than the government. He said Nigeria did not follow in the area of its colonial master. According to him, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Station is government owned but the government does not dictate what it airs as it only serves the interest of the people.

He said, “Whoever heads the UK government cannot appoint the Director General of BBC. So, it’s not government businesses and in that case, government cannot dictate what to air and not to air, they serve the people.

He added, “we have a slightly different scenario here, in the act establishing the NTA, the supervision of the NTA is domiciled under the appointed authority, the federal ministry of information.

“But unfortunately the law gives the minister unusual powers, where one individual determines what’s in the public interest. The minister single handedly determines if a material is in public interest and because it’s in the law you are bound to obey that law, if you refuse you are breached.

“Over the years people who have held that position have either used it wisely or taken advantage of such powers and uses it arbitrarily and that’s why you hear people say it’s only the government story they tell in NTA all the time, if you want to hear the real news go to private stations. But as a professionals you have your conscience to deal with.”

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