Teen Africa Television as the next Charles Novia’s think
He is not planning to hang his filmmaking boots. Not sure Charles Osa Igbinovia, or Charles Novia for short, would want to quit making those quality films that he is known for, even for a billion dollars.
Filmmaking and in fact content creation is in his DNA. But if the concern is that the prolific movie director, producer, screenwriter, actor, commentator and essayist has not let out anything fresh from his creative pouch at least in the last six years, then the reason is not far-fetched.
The Chief Executive Officer of November Productions, an outfit that has had a tremendous impact in the movie and music scenes in Nigeria, is cooking up something that would revolutionalise television viewing in Africa.
Any moment now, the Edo State-born creative entrepreneur, who has a passion for perfection, would lead a crew at Teen Africa Television to launch what is anticipated as Africa’s first dedicated niche channel for pre-teens and teenagers.
Set for launch before the end of the year, Novia, who has signed critically acclaimed movies, including Atlanta, Missing Angel, Bridesmaid, Husband and Wife, Cinderella and Alan Poza, as writer, director and producer, revealled that he has in the last five years been working assiduously with a team of dedicated and committed professionals to berth the channel, which he added would probably be the ‘first niche channel’ for pre-teens and teenagers, a demographical group that he said have for long been ignored.
“Teen Africa Television is the first of its kind in this part of the world and I daresay, Africa,” he declared, adding that the channel aims to give the teenagers their own voice and showcase the creative dynamics of the new Nigerian and African teenager to the world.
Born to David Oghogho Igbinovia and Madam Clara Uwaifo, who he described as a rare breed, a devout Christian and trained colonial teacher, who suckled both his tender childhood and his talent from an early age, Novia was raised in Benin City, which he described affectionately as the city that shaped him.
“The great Benin City was the city of my childhood, the city of my art. It was and it is still a great city of culture and tradition,” he said. In fact, as he revealed, it was whilst growing up in Benin that he caught the motion picture bug. But it was television that sparked it all up for him.
He recalled his childhood days in the ancient city. “From my child’s eyes, I would watch, enthralled, as the moving pictures spoke millions of words to my soul. From the days of black and white television set through to colour television years later, the programmes, people and power of television created a new vista of fantasy and joy for me.
“I wanted to be in it and my kiddie mind would wonder, as many did then, how it was that the small square box could fit in a multitude of people all at once. I started watching the station in the 1970’s as a child. Brilliant programmes from the creative pool in the station, such as Hotel De Jordan, Pot of Life and fantastic programmes from their national network service, such as Mirror in the Sun, Village Headmaster stirred my ambition to be true to my true calling.
“Thus, in 1983, I found myself cast as a child actor in my first major television drama. Thereafter, roles started coming in. The stage, television and arts were my world.
“In NTA Benin, I was first nurtured. Years later in 1994 through 1998, the NTA network service in Lagos would harbour my talent and groom me for Nollywood, after retaining me at the completion of my youth service.”
A product of the Department of Dramatic Arts, University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), Novia revealed that he has always known, right from his days in the university, that he would end up running an outfit that would create content for all the communication media. So, this decision to berth a television station is just a fulfilment of one of those career dreams.
He recalled how he ended up studying Dramatic Arts in the university: “It was Father Ofei, a priest at the Holy Cross Catholic Church in Benin. He came to our house one evening for a visit in 1982.
“Since the age of six, I had started writing. I was a child prodigy who had written about 10 novels before I was 11. My mother would show all visitors all my hand-written novels and they would be amazed at what this child had written.
“When Father Ofei read some of my books, he stared at me in amazement and asked what I wanted to be in future and I said a professor. I thought being a professor was the coolest thing to be then. By that time, I was also doing some acting on local television.
“But I want to be a professor in acting,’ I continued. ‘Why? That’s great! That’s what I read. I have a masters degree in Theatre Arts from an American University,’ he said.
“I was transfixed. Before then, I never knew there was a course like Theatre Arts. That day, I was happy. I knew that was what I would study and there was no hesitation years later when I was filling my JAMB form.
“Though late now, Father Ofei was a nice man who always encouraged me to follow my dreams.” A likeable personality who is very down to earth, Novia said the team at Teen Africa Television has in the last five years been developing purely original and exclusive content that would change the viewing habits for teenagers.
“Teen Africa Television will be heavy on content, which speaks the right language to the watching demographics. Like I said, the primary viewership targets are the pre-teens and teenagers from ages of 13 to 19 and the family.
“But our content will be original and exclusive to the channel and falls into three major categories of entertainment, educational and lifestyle.”
Asked how the road to Teen Africa Television has been for him and the team, Novia replied: “Challenging…. I applied for a licence to the NBC in 2014 and got the approval. The channel will be on direct satellite broadcast and simultaneously online.
“We have started discussions with the major satellite broadcast stations and announcements will be made soon on launch dates.
“However, the first major challenge is finance. First, I have been spending my own funds to put this together. I refused to start the channel with loans from any bank whatsoever. Creativity and finance should be symbiotic and not financially parasitic.
“A couple of banks offered us loans at prevailing interest rates to start off, but I had to refuse, because the kind of atmosphere we want to work in has to be unencumbered.
“So, this is a passion project. A few people with money I approached to join earlier could not see this vision or were perhaps hesitant in seeing the potentials of what I am doing. Then, I went into myself, put a team of creative wiz kids together, adjusted my financial expectations and decided to fund the project as much as I could in batches. “That has worked very well for me.”
On his career ambition and what he thinks the future holds for Teen Africa Television in a digitized environment, Novia, whose experience as a content creator of over 18 years would surely come to bear in creating and producing original content that the channel needs, stated: “It is to make the channel the biggest resource for young talents.
“Teen stars will abound, teen brains, the celebration of the teen spirit in Nigeria and Africa will be the fulcrum. This channel will be their voice and will also be the power tool their parents need to speak visually to their kids.
“There will be programmes on mentorship and values. The channel will be one of the few stations to broadcast in full HD from start. It will be a digitised balance of values and visions for the teenagers.
“Imagine kids reading their own news, having their own talk shows, their own reality shows, their own drama series, their own world …all exemplifying the African teenage experience. You just wait!’’
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