We don land gidigba!
That was the opening sentence as BBC World Service announced that it had begun its broadcast in Pidgin language on the BBC Africa platform.
With a minute and 3 seconds long video, the British Media giants, showed off their new team, making promises of an interesting future to come while also highlighting some already fulfilled, as one member of the team said her in lines: ‘At the beginning, many of us no wan believe am, eh? BBC want me?’ (In the beginning, lots of us found it hard to believe the BBC wanted reporters for Pidgin service).
Another said, ‘This na the call I don dey wait for but now e be like say my story don change’, (I have been waiting on this call, alas, it looks like my story has changed).
This spells aptly how big an opportunity this is to the journalists, reporters, and media experts newly signed on to the broadcast giants, again as highlighted by another individual from the team ‘I BE INTERNATIONAL JOURNALIST’.
Yup! It doesn’t get any better than that.
Finally, off the video, they said, ‘We dey rep the streets of Africa’ Yes o, We don land gidigba…’
Except landing is one thing and executing another. As interesting as this project seems, there is a niggling worry how its consistency, especially with the obvious target audience present in mind, will pan out even though admittedly the odds look in their favour.
The successes with Radio and TV broadcasts in Pidgin locally (Wazobia FM, Wazobia TV, Naija FM) gives an idea to how widely used Pidgin is in Nigeria, and a large part of Central and West Africa; but that can be explained by the undoubted and consistent relevance of traditional broadcasts.
Here, Digital Media throws up a whole new conversation as BBC Pidgin is set to broadcast digitally with a focus on mobile, and video content, with a team of web designers, social media experts, video editors also recruited, which explains the dedicated Pidgin website.
“The BBC is going to be a pioneer in this area,” says Ms Bilikisu Labaran, Nigeria Editorial lead, BBC Pidgin. She sees a challenge ahead but also an opportunity for the anticipated debate on harmonising the written and spoken word.
Which brings us to my reservations about execution highlighted earlier. The fact that there’s primarily no agreed standard written form of the oral language leaves a more intriguing, yet daisy feels to it all.
While creativity with which the words are formed could be massively explored, how long can they hold the attention of the youthful audience with several other platforms and content fighting for their attention?
How creative can they be to make BBC Pidgin a success?
There will definitely be a first-time appeal, as seen with the popular UK based Telegraph Sports writer, Jonathan Liew who tweeted some screen munches off the website’s sports page with the caption ‘Ohh my God, this is amazing!’
Oh my god BBC Pidgin is amazing pic.twitter.com/V6lGBCRHrC
— Jonathan Liew (@jonathanliew) August 21, 2017
Grabbing attention shouldn’t be a problem, keeping them will and only that will do for the network.
Again, it will be interesting to see how this new service all unfolds, but for now, I can bask in the thrill and giggles of seeing the ‘3 hours ago’ notification on a post be translated as ‘3 awa wey don pass’ on the BBC Pidgin site.
While we are it, maybe you will be curious to see how ‘content not available in your country’ has been translated.
With BBC’s entrance into the Nigerian media space using a local language, will other foreign sites attempt to compete in like manner?