As Megalectrics celebrates its 10th year anniversary, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Chris Ubosi, in this interview with Sunday Ehigiator speaks on how he delved into journalism and is today the owner of over four broadcast houses in Nigeria and overseas, without a single loan from the bank
What is your life’s story?
My name is Chris Ubosi. I am the CEO of Megaletrics Limited. We run Classic FM, The Beat FM, Naija FM and Lagos Talks, all radio brands. I am married to Ijeoma Ngozi and we have three wonderful children.
I grew up with four brothers, and I had five siblings in general; four boys and a girl. I am 60 now, but I am the smallest person in the house. My dad worked in National Electric Power Authority (NEPA). He was the Director of Distribution for NEPA. So, I wouldn’t say we were rich, but still that time the civil service was great. We grew up in nice places; Government Residential Areas (GRA), Ikoyi, Ijora. So we met a lot of good people. Childhood was great and a little of us are still very close. I speak to all my siblings every day, and we bonded so well.
What about your educational background?
My background is so funny. I have a first degree in Quantity Surveying and a Masters in Project Management from the University of Ife and University of Lagos respectively.
I had worked with a company at that time. Then at that time it happened that they liberalised the media. The company applied for broadcast license and I was the person who was chosen to run it. I ran it for 12 years. I got all the experiences I needed and I was fortunate to get a license and this is where we are.
How did Megalectrics start?
Megalectrics started when we got the first license. I have always been in media. I was working with another media house for about 10 or 12 years so we applied for a license and we were opportune to get one. That was at the end of 2008. We began in 2009 with The Beat FM and Classic FM. Two years later we added Naija FM and four years later, we added Lagos Talks.
In Ibadan, we have Naija FM and The Beat FM in Port Harcourt. And last year in Abuja, we started the Beat FM and also four years ago we started The Beat 103.6 in London which made us the first African station to be on the FM band. Last year, we ascended to DAB so we are heard all over the United Kingdom now.
What is the idea behind having more than one radio station?
Increasingly, the Nigerian audience is getting more sophisticated. In the old days, you could do a potpourri of programming on one channel. You play contemporary, and then old school, then local music, then jazz.
Where we are now, our research shows that; because we never do anything without research, the audience was sophisticated enough to want their own niches, hence each of the stations talks to a niche audience.
Beat FM talks to the contemporary youth, so all our programming, lifestyle, presenters, presentation style are targeted towards the youth. Classic FM talks to more mature people. So you have old school music, programmes on health, investment and things that affect those demographics.
Naija FM is local languages. They speak Pidgin English, Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa and appeal to the grassroots. And Lagos Talks, we waited till our reputation was good enough to understand that we are apolitical. We are just here to entertain, inform and educate people to take up social issues.
We never got into trouble with the other ones. We decided that it was time to start Lagos Talks which is a conversational station which takes the view of people on the street and projects it to give a balanced feedback from both parties.
We all know bad news sells. How do you see a newspaper that says we have had light for 24 four hours; It is when you don’t have light that you would only see media talk about power.
So, if you don’t take time, you end up being a bad station just as if you are against the government. So, these are the niches of all the stations that we have. Those brands cover a majority of the population. Everybody will find something there for them.
Today, Megalectrics is 10 years, what stood you out?
If you recall, I said earlier on, everything we do is research based and so we feel the pulse of the people before we take any decision and then again I have an excellent team behind me who are dedicated.
It has been 10 years we have been on and we have been giving awards to those who have been here for 10 years and more than half of the staff have been here for more than 10 years.
That is how dedicated they are to the project and it kind of makes my life easier. I just have to oversee what is going on. So long I make the plans and I communicate effectively and there is good monitoring and feedback, nothing goes wrong.
We can sit together and deal with it. And I’ll like to say that we are quite not frugal. The resources are not enormous but we have no loans with any bank. We tend to just keep expenditure at a level that we can.
We train our people and make them realise that they can multitask. They see the vision, tie in with the mission and so it makes it a lot easier. I would say that the key thing is staff and then we invest quite a bit in technology.
A lot of things that we do are technology driven so, for instance, we do all the sales and marketing scheduling in Lagos. A little thing like that cuts down how much staff you require and help you to monitor all the things that go on as well.
So what was the drive behind venturing into the media industry?
I have this thing that I always say; you never do anything for money. The success you have in pursuing your passion will ultimately generate money. I never start out anything to make money.
I start it out to make it successful and money is a by-product of the success of that thing. I have never had the dreams of being a billionaire or a multi-mega media owner.
I just had the dream of being successful at whatever I do and thankfully, I do quite a few things and I have been successful in most of them. So, money to me has never been a prevailing factor.
I guess that is why I am interested in the project being successful, getting it to function and achieve the goal it was desired to achieve. And I think once you achieve it, you will achieve monetary success as well.
How well would you say Megalectrics has contributed to the entertainment industry?
The media is the reason why the entertainment industry is successful. I remember when we started in the old station. We have the national broadcasting corporation compel us to play 40 per cent of Nigerian music at the time.
We didn’t have any music to play. We had Sunny Ade, Ebenezer One, and Sunny Okosun. At that time, we would literally beg people to bring music and that is where the whole boom started.
We became outlets for these musics. All the private stations had to play Plantashun Boiz, Idris Abdul Kareem, Remediz, Tony Tetula and P-square. That is where the music really took off because there were outlets for the music.
That is what private broadcasting has done for entertainment. It has given them multitude of channels to display their talents and also, now they have the social media and it’s a good place.
Now that our music is being accepted internationally, you find that there are beginning to be a structure in the entertainment industry. We are having entertainment lawyers. I just came back from Paris and I had a meeting with a private equity firm and they are setting up a firm in Lagos to look at creative industries, because of what we are doing in music and Nollywood.
We are at a stage now where we have to structure it and that is what is happening. You have all the major record labels coming in here now, people developing creative hubs, creative villages where you can do your music. We are at a good place. It just needs to be structured.
It is wonderful and the support has been great. In the beginning there was a push back especially when new entrants come in, but now we are getting all the support from all the locals, all our fellow African countries and local musicians.
What we play is local English music, rhymes, and afro-beat. So you find that we are the go-to station for black events, street events, we are partners with London carnival, the Bend Council, we train youths in the society. And it has been good to fly the Nigerian flag and it is a positive for us at Megalectrics.
What is your take on government intentions to regulate social media usage?
I think that the social aggregators should be more careful with what they carry. If Chris Ubosi says something, it doesn’t really get up until some aggregator takes it up and I think they should be more careful.
The country is not doing well economically right now, and there are all sorts of conspiracy theories going around. While I don’t think you can really regulate it, it behoves the regulators to be a bit more careful and a bit more professional in what they do. It is right on your phone. I think there should be a lot of verification before things are shared but as for regulating it, I don’t think it can be done.
How can the government make the entertainment and media industry better?
I have seen it grow. I am impressed by how far we have come. It can get better if the government should release some of those entertainment funds to us. I know the banks are doing something in the creative industry which is good.
I would like more access to funds. I’d like some tax breaks from the government for the regulators and I would like the government to assist the regulators with the digital switch over that has been dragging for years. It could blow up the industry and raise the tide.
Any advice to upcoming entertainers?
For the youth who wants to go into the industry, I would say, it is a good time. With the digital penetration that is going on in that space, with the convergence of everything, I would say it is a good time.
When you get into it, stick to it. It is not a function of going into it, and expecting to be a megastar in six months.
How do you unwind?
I love to work and I come to work every day. I play tennis, a bit too much for my good. And just to keep my blood pressure up and pumping, I support Arsenal. When I feel too relaxed, I just watch an Arsenal game and my blood pressure goes right up. I have been supporting them since 1982 and I am not about to change.