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New BBC, MTN partnership aims to tackle fake news, reduce data usage

After successfully launching the BBC News Minute Bulletin, an initiative aimed at delivering verified news in English, Hausa, Igbo, Pidgin and Yoruba at zero cost to subscribers of the MyMTN App, representatives from both companies, in this interview with MICHAEL ANI, BusinessDay analyst, offer insights into how the new development will be a game-changer for Nigerians. They also speak on other salient issues. Excerpts:

 

 Is it mere coincidence that the partnership is coming at a time of the global pandemic or has it been in the works previously

 Kolawole Oyeyemi, General Manager, Customer Experience, MTN Nigeria.

 We had been working on this partnership before the pandemic. The pandemic happened around the time we were rounding up the integral parts of the partnership. There is a trend we noticed about the quality and authenticity of news on various platforms and on social media. Some outlets publish stories with a little investigation, some without recourse to due diligence to determine accuracy. This has obviously led to the problem of fake news, which has ravaged the media space recently.

With this observation, we knew we needed to improve the way our subscribers consume news. This led to the partnership with the BBC, an organisation with a good track record of excellence and authenticity, about incorporating the BBC ONE on our app.

The pandemic started and we knew it was the right time to launch the platform because a lot of news was going around and we wanted to make sure Nigerians get accurate information and so we launched. But as I said, this has been in planning before the pandemic.

 

Oluwatoyosi Ogunseye, Head of West Africa Languages, BBC World Service

 

It’s been in the works previously. The partnership was borne out of BBC’s quest to reach more audiences through digital platforms, particularly young people and women. The BBC has over 50 broadcast and digital partners in Nigeria and we take huge pride in these partnerships because they promote great public service journalism that our audiences find useful in their daily lives. Our partnership with MTN is unique, innovative and we will be reaching new audiences on a growing digital platform. Gone are the days when the news waited for audiences, now the news goes to meet audiences where they are and at the time that suits them so we’re excited to be a partner with MTN to provide trusted news on demand to all of their subscribers across the country for free.

  

2. It is surprising that the investment into ensuring that Nigerians get credible news at free cost is coming when many companies are holding back on their planned investments due to business uncertainties. What is MTN seeing?

 

Kolawole Oyeyemi, General Manager, Customer Experience, MTN Nigeria

 For us, it is not always about profit. Our customers are at the forefront of what we do and we want to make sure they have access to all the information they need to make informed decisions. Yes, the pandemic has affected many businesses globally but what it has also done is to strengthen our resolve to care for our customers especially during challenging times. What we are saying is simple; make sure customers have access to verifiable information. When they do, they can make better decisions.

 

Oluwatoyosi Ogunseye, Head of West Africa Languages, BBC World Service

Apart from tackling fake news, one of the unique features of this partnership is delivering the news in four local languages- Igbo, Yoruba, Pidgin, Hausa, plus English. This means that audience inclusion is guaranteed and people won’t be disenfranchised from receiving trustworthy news and they can interact with this content in languages they are most comfortable with at a time that suits them, wherever they are in the country.

 

3. Aside from the issue of tackling fake news, what other reasons is the partnership going to address?

 

Kolawole Oyeyemi, General Manager, Customer Experience, MTN Nigeria

 Apart from tackling fake news, the partnership provides a platform where subscribers can get news on the go wherever they are. It also reduces data usage while consuming such news. This way, they get to consume minute by minute update of happenings across the world.

 

Oluwatoyosi Ogunseye, Head of West Africa Languages, BBC World Service

The BBC has been present in Nigeria for over 60 years and this country brings in an audience over 40 million) to the BBC on a weekly basis. In fact, Nigeria is one of the top three markets for the BBC in the world and number one in Africa. The truth is, the BBC is going strong in this country because of the unflinching loyalty of our audiences, that value and trust our news brand. To show our commitment to Nigeria, the BBC expanded over two years ago and launched three new services- BBC Igbo, BBC Yoruba and BBC Pidgin, in addition to BBC Hausa, our English platforms and genre programmes like health, business, sports. Nigeria is the West Africa Headquarters of the BBC and we have over 100 reporters, who are Nigerian and delivering content from this region to other parts of the world. So, our partnership with MTN just further deepens the BBC’s commitment to this great country and its resourceful people.

  

4. Why did you decide to choose Nigeria as the first country to begin such a commendable partnership?

 

Kolawole Oyeyemi, General Manager, Customer Experience, MTN Nigeria

Nigeria is a country of over 200 million people with one of the largest economies in Africa. What this means is that false information can get to a large number of people within minutes? This is not only about those who are on the internet but also information from one person to another. We know how damaging that can be. If the information has the right source and it is authentic. There will be no worry about what people tell each other. So, we decided that we should start with Nigeria and, perhaps, at some point it will extend to other countries on the continent.

 

5. Should the market expect the partnership to extend to other countries after this?

 

Oluwatoyosi Ogunseye, Head of West Africa Languages, BBC World Service

This will definitely happen. We are eager for more innovative partnerships like this beyond Nigeria. Ghana, Cameroon, Senegal, DRC Congo, etc are some of the countries in the Western region and across Sub Saharan Africa where we hope to replicate this unique content model over the coming year.

 

6. Since launching the BBC minutes in 2015, tell us some of the success stories in regions where it has been done?

 

Oluwatoyosi Ogunseye, Head of West Africa Languages, BBC World Service

BBC Minute is the world’s leading News bulletin which was produced with younger listeners in mind. BBC Minute is available to audiences around the world in multiple local languages. We have established partnerships with over 40 radio stations– from Hong Kong and Harare to Baghdad and Botswana. African stations include Splash 105.5 FM and The Beat in Nigeria; YFM (South Africa), Gabz Fm (Botswana), Capital K Fm (Zimbabwe) XFM (Uganda), Sun FM (Zambia), Hot 96 (Kenya) to name a few. And increasingly the focus over the last two years has been to make BBC Minute available to new audiences on digital platforms across Africa in English, Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo and Pidgin. The success of this product has ensured some of the world’s biggest media houses distinguish themselves in competitive markets with this innovative news product.

In Nigeria, BBC Minute can be heard on Boomplay Music Streaming service, Information Nigeria Website and Now on MyMTN App. On Radio, audiences can listen on The Beat 99.9 FM, Naija FM, Splash FM, Adaba FM and other leading radio services. Audiences tell us year on year how much they value being able to listen to short-form news on demand, at times to suit them and in a local language of their choice.

 

 

 

 

7. How will this partnership be a game-changer for the BBC and MTN in terms of revenue and customer base?

 

Kolawole Oyeyemi, General Manager, Customer Experience, MTN Nigeria

Our priority is on our customers. Ensuring they get the right information. If this translates to having more customers or profit, we will be happy. But the primary objective is to positively affect their lives and improve customer experience on the network.

 

Oluwatoyosi Ogunseye, Head of West Africa Languages, BBC World Service

For us at the BBC, we are focused on growing young audiences and reaching more women and we are optimistic that this partnership will deliver more of this demographic to us and in turn, they will come to have a deeper relationship and connection with BBC News. Millions of young people love MTN and trust the brand and many of them use the MTN app. With this partnership, the BBC is positioning itself as No. 1 trusted news provider to this youthful, vibrant base

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