History of Broadcasting in Nigeria

In this post, we will look at the history of broadcasting in Nigeria. To examine this post critically, the following aspects will be discussed:

1. Origin of broadcasting in the pre-independence and independence era

2. Radio and television broadcasting in the pre- independence and independence era.

3. Major milestones of broadcasting in Nigeria.

Origin of Broadcasting in the Pre-Independence Era

The origin of broadcasting in Nigeria can be traced to 1859 when a Yoruba Reverend from Egba land started the printing and publication of a newspaper called Iwe Iroyin Fun Awon Egba Ati Yoruba. At that time, his idea was to make the Yoruba and Egba people able to read and write. His pioneering efforts paved the way for the  publication, printing and publication of other newspapers.

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History of Broadcasting in Nigeria
Broadcasting in Nigeria – Photo Source:

The newspapers published and circulated then were : The Lagos Standard, African Messenger, Nigerian Tribune, The West African Pilot, Lagos Weekly Record, Lagos Time and Gold Coast Advertiser, Anglo African.

The production and circulation of these  newspapers started the era of journalism and broadcasting  in Nigeria. A lot of journalists used these newspapers as platforms to fight against colonial rule  and ensure that Nigeria gained independence from the colonial masters.

These journalists used the print media as weapons to fight against colonial oppression, rule and imperialism. Pioneer journalists who used these newspapers to fight for the Independence of Nigeria were Mokwingo Okoye, Dutse Mohammed Ali, Anthony Enahoro, Obafemi Awolowo, Ernest Ikoli, Nnamdi  Azikwe, Herbert Macaulay.

Independence in Nigeria heralded  a new era of journalism because the Pioneer newspapers were later transformed into television stations like WNTV, BBC and WNRC.

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It is important to note that these changes paved the way for modern radio and television broadcasting in Nigeria. Radio broadcasting started in 1933 while radio broadcasting started in 1959.

We shall now look at the roles played by these newspapers and journalists in the pre-independence era.

Nnamdi Azikwe-West African Pilot

The West African Pilot was launched by Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe on 22 November, 1937.He dedicated the newspaper to fighting for Nigeria’s independence from British rule, imperialism and dominance.

The newspaper was published under the name Zik Press Limited. Apart from the West African Pilot, other newspapers published by Zik Press Limited were the Eastern Nigerian Guardian (1943),   the Nigeria Spokesman (1943),the Southern Defender (1943), the Sentinel( 1943), the Comet  1945, the Northern Advocate ( 1949).

The core attributes of the West African Pilot were its undisputed quality and professional touch which made it the first and the best among its peers. It is also played an important role in the spread of nationalist ideas which made it popular at that time.

In 1967, it folded up because of the Civil War that lasted 3 years.Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe can rightly be referred to as the father of print journalism in Nigeria.

Ernest  Ikoli-African Messanger

The African Messenger was founded by Ernest Ikoli in 1926.He is aptly described as the dozen of Nigerian journalism. He worked as the first editor of the Daily Times of Nigeria, which was launched in 1926.He used the African Messenger as a weapon to fight for Nigeria’s independence from British colonial rule. He made sure that it was published weekly and used it as a platform to support the Nigerian Civil Service Union against the British Colonial government.

John Payne Jackson-Lagos Weekly Record

It was launched by John Payne Jackson, a Liberian immigrant in 1890. He used it to fight against British  imperialism in the early twentieth century. It’s messages portrayed an anti-colonialist position to British rule.

Notable apprentices under him were Ladapo Ademola, Akin Adeshigbin, Adeoye Denigan, Ernest Ikoli and I.B. Thomas.

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George Alfred Williams-The Lagos Standard

The Lagos Standard was published by George Williams in 1895. He edited it for 24 years before his death. It was published in Broad Street, Lagos. George Williams used it to critically criticise the British colonial government for its policies against the black man.

It was also unrepentantly supportive of reforms in colonial rule, spearheading issues such as free electricity for Lagos in 1895, a free water  system from 1908-1916 and the fight to retain Africans’ control over their own land from 1912-1913.

Richard Olamilege Beale Blaize- Lagos Time and the Gold Coast Colony Advertiser

It was the third newspaper published after Anglo African and Iwe Iroyin.It was published in 1880.

Richard Olamilege Beale Blaize used it as a platform to go against the excesses of the British colonial government in 1881, criticise the policies and actions of the colonial government and criticise the executive and legislative council which had only white men as its members,prophesing that Nigerians would govern themselves one day.

Sadly the newspaper went out of circulation on October 24,1883.

Herbert Macaulay-Lagos Daily News

He founded the Lagos daily news in 1925.It was Nigeria’s first daily newspaper which was used by Herbert Macaulay to express his partisan and nationalist ideas against the British Colonial government.

Chief Obafemi Awolowo-Nigerian Tribune

The Nigerian Tribune was founded by Chief Awolowo in 1949.Chief Awolowo used it has his own mouthpiece for his populist welfare programes .He also used it as a platform to defend the interests of the Yoruba people at that time.

The Nigerian Tribune continued to expose public and private scandals, excesses and dictatorship of  The colonial government and successive Nigerian governments in the post-independence  era. Chief Obafemi Awolowo used as a platform to spread national consciousness among Nigerians.

History of Radio and Television Broadcasting in Nigeria

The history of radio and television broadcasting will be tested from the pre-independence and post-independence eras using notable dates.

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The Pre-Independence Era of Radio Broadcasting in Nigeria

1933:Establishment of the Radio Distribution System by the British Colonial Government

This is the time radio broadcasting started in  Nigeria. 1933 heralded the installation of the Radio Distribution System in Lagos which was supervised and controlled by  the Department of Post and Telegraphs, on behalf of the British government. At that time, its major goal was to serve as the reception base of the British Broadcasting Corporation(BBC).

1935 : Change of Name from Radio Distribution System to Radio Diffusion System by the British Colonial Government

In 1935, the British colonial government changed its  name from the Radio Distribution System  to Radio Diffusion System. The reason for the change was to serve and project Britain and it’s allies interest during World War Two.

1939 :  Establishment and Commissioning of the Ibadan Station.

In 1939,  the Ibadan Station was established and commissioned following the renaming of the Radio Distribution System as Radio Diffusion System.Liscenced receivers increased from 2000 in 1939 which subsequently led to the commissioning of the Ibadan Station.

1944: The establishment  and commissioning if the Ibadan Station  further catalysed the commissioning of the Kano Station.The Kano Station was established to give the Norther Region a regional radio station.

1949:Setting Up of Radio Services with a National Outlook

The Turne  Bryon committe was set up to re-appraise radio broadcasting objectives with the aim of establishing a radio station with national outlook and identity.

After giving its recommendations to the British government, the British government went ahead to establish the National Broadcasting Service.

1950-1951:The National  Broadcasting Services was Established and Founded in Lagos

In 1951, direct radio transmission in Nigeria started and was supervised by the National Broadcasting Service.


The services of the NBS was extended to Kaduna in 1952, Enugu in 1952 and Ibadan in 1955.

1956: Establishment of the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation

A bill was passed by the Hose of Representatives to establish the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation. After its establishment, it was entirely responsible for radio broadcasting in Nigeria.

Post-Independence Era of Radio Broadcasting in Nigeria

1978: Establishment of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria

The establishment of the NBC paved the way for the establishment of  the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria in 1978.The FRCN is federal government owned radio station in

1990: Establishment of the Voice of Nigeria

Twelve years later, in 1990, the Voice of Nigeria was established. The Voice of Nigeria served as the first external radio service in Nigeria.

It was formed from the merging together of the Ibadan Station,  Kaduna Station, Lagos Station and Enugu Station through the enactment of Decree 8 of 1978.

1992: Deregulation of the Broadcasting Sector

General Ibrahim Babangida.This deregulated the broadcasting sector by enacting Decree  No.38 of 1992 which was am ended by Decree No.55 of 1999.

By deregulating the broadcasting sector, government control of radio and television stations was completely removed. It saw the establishment of private radio and television stations till today.

History of Television Broadcasting in Nigeria:

Pre-Independence Era of Television Broadcasting in Nigeria

1959: Establishment of WNTV as the First Television Station by the Western Region Government

It is apt to say that that television broadcasting started in Nigeria in 1959.The Western Region of Nigeria pioneered television broadcasting in Nigeria with the establishment of the Western Nigeria Television.

It was established by the then Premier of Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. It was established to propagate formal and non-formal education in the region.

The government if the Eastern Region followed suit and established it’s own television station on October 1, 1960.

1960:Establishment if the Eastern Region Nigeria Broadcasting Service

On 1st October, 1960, the Eastern government under the leadership of Dr. M.I. Okpara established the Eastern Nigeria Broadcasting Service.It commenced operation on 1st October, 1960. The goal of its establishment was to spread formal and non-formal  education to the people of the region.

1962:Establishment of the Broadcasting Corporation of Northern Nigeria

In 1962, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Premier of the Northern Region established the Broadcasting Corporation of Northern Nigeria(BCNN) Radio/Television. It was established to spread formal education in the Northern Nigeria.

1975: Establishment of the First Colour Television by the Benue State Military Government

In 1975, the Benue State Military Government established the first colour television in Nigeria.This was perhaps the first time that the colour television would be seen in Nigeria.

1977: Establishment of the Nigerian  Television Authority by General Olusegun Obasanjo

The military government of President Olusegun Obasanjo established the Nigerian  Television Authority through the enactment of Decree 24 of 1977.

This enabled Obasanjo’s government to acquire state owned television stations Andrew them with the central government owned stations.

1990:Establishment of the Voice of Nigeria(VON)

The external service of the BBC was excised to establish VON.

1992:  General Babangida’s Era of Deregulation

General Ibrahim Babangida deregulated the broadcasting sector by enacting Decree Number 38  of 1992 to  create the National Broadcasting Commission with the sole aim of removing total government monopoly of radio and television stations.

The NBC was saddled with the responsibility of managing and regulating the broadcasting sector in Nigeria.

This decree deregulated the broadcasting media and catalysed the establishment of privately   owned television and radio stations in Nigeria. Presently, Nigeria has 60 radio stations and 70 federal controlled television stations. In 1996, there were more than forty stations which have been licenced to operate digitally.

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Major Milestones of Broadcasting in Nigeria

The major milestones of broadcasting in Nigeria are listed below:

1933: Establishment of the BBC Empire Service through the reception of its signals in Nigeria.

1946 to 1950:The Radio Distribution Service expanded its scope of coverage to the three regions of the country . Also,  the Radio Distribution Service established  relay stations in the East, West and North which accounted for about 12,000 box receivers throughout the country.

1951 : Direct radio transmission started in Nigeria with the establishment of the Nigerian Broadcasting Service (NBC) .

1952: The National Broadcasting  Service  in Lagos became fully functional.

1957:The Nigerian Broadcasting Service became autonomous in 1957.

1959: Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Premier of Western Region, established the first regional broadcasting station known as Western Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (WNBC) Radio in Ibadan and  the first television station in Africa, the Western Nigerian Television (WNTV).

1962:  The Eastern Nigeria Broadcasting Service (Radio and Television)  was established by the Eastern Regional Government under Dr. M.I. Okpara, while Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Premier, Northern Region,  established the Broadcasting Corporation of Northern Nigeria (BCNN) Radio/ Television.

1975: Establishment of the first colour television by the Benue State Military Government.

1977: The Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) was established when by General Obasanjo’s military government through Decree 24 of 1977.

1978 : The Radio Stations in Enugu, Kaduna, Ibadan and Lagos were merged to form the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) by Decree 8 of 1st April 1978.

1990: The external service of NBC, was excised to form the Voice of Nigeria (VON) Corporation.

1992: General Ibrahim Babangida.This enacted Decree No. 38 of 1992, amended by Decree No.55 of 1999,  to deregulate the broadcasting industry to break the monopoly of ownership of broadcasting stations by the Federal and State Governments, paving way for private entrepreneurs and media professionals to establish their own radio and television stations.


Broadcasting  has come a long way in Nigeria with sixty radio stations and seventy federal controlled stations operating in the country. The Nigerian broadcasting industry has achieved significant milestones over the past 85 years which are worth celebrating.

Reverend Hernry Townsed pioneered broadcasting in Nigeria. Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe pioneered print journalism in Nigeria.

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