By Akere Maimo in Yaounde
Nowadays, it has become common practice to find a cross-section of Cameroonian families glued to their TV sets as early as 7 pm. Anxiety is usually at top gear as the impatient onlookers gaze at their silver screens tight-seated for a serial or soap opera to unveil itself. Missing an episode is almost tantamount to missing an important date. Everything practically comes to a standstill in the household, children forgoing their homework and mothers leaving their pots on fire all in a bid to quench the seething appetite.
Primetime series like ‘The Promise’ on CRTV and ‘Camila’ on STV have become part and parcel of the life of most Anglophone homes in Cameroon, creating new worlds of their own. ‘Muñeca Brava’ on CRTV, ‘La Rue du Marié’ on Canal 2 and many others have held the French-speaking audience hostage. Generally, those who are bilingual have an edge. These are among the few examples that can be cited, which remain so far a clear reflection of the dominance of TV media in Cameroon. As the saying goes, people are more used to watching and listening than reading in Cameroon.
The emergence of the audiovisual landscape
It was only until the former PM Peter Mafany Musongue promulgated decree No. 2000/188 of 3 April 2000, that the audiovisual landscape of Cameroon was liberalised. Since then, the CRTV monopoly has been torpedoed by the presence of vibrant private TV stations such as Canal 2 and Spectrum TV (STV 1&2) as well as cable TV networks that have all pulled a considerable chunk of CRTV’s audience. In Bamenda alone, there are 2 local TV houses: Republican Television Network (RTN) and Cameroon National Television (CNT) plus STV and CRTV. Apart from the usual Canal 2, STV and CRTV, Equinox Television (ETV) and Arian Television (ATV) are producing new shoots in the major metropolis, Douala and Yaounde, respectively.
Cameroonians are more and more overfed by a gamut of TV entertainment to the extent that many are now faced with the problem of choice. But what really interest Cameroonians on TV? What do they exactly watch on TV? Films (soap operas, cartoons, sitcoms), music, news or sports? What about business news, weather forecast and local and global market trends? Have the local TV houses lived up to the expectations the Cameroonian audience? What impact have they created on the local population?
Nigerian movies: an alternative source of entertainment
It is true that with the advent of Nigerian movies and the advancement of the laser technology in electronics, many Cameroonian English-speakers found a new niche for comfort to compensate the French-dominated media that surround them. Soon, video rentals became big business in major cities and towns in Cameroon. Posters of Nigerian stars punctuated every corner of the street.
However, with the arrival of the private TV channels and the cable TV network services, the attention has been sidetracked. Many now prefer to subscribe and watch the local TV stations that show Nigerian movies more or less on daily basis, than spend their money on buying and renting movies. Unfortunately, this has led to the unemployment of some enterprising Cameroonians who sold and rented videos. Subscribing for a cable TV network service has also become en vogue in most towns, with a monthly fee of about 4000-5000 FCFA.
Since 1987, Spectrum Cablevision Ltd has been involved in satellite distribution and PAY-TV subscription management in Cameroon. As a multimedia organisation, it provides TVRO solutions (DTH, SMATV, and MATV). Canal Satellite Horizon was only introduced a few years ago.
TV Programming and content of programmes
Amongst the so many problems that the aforementioned TV stations face is that of programming. For sure, many Cameroonians are glad that they now can select from a wide variety of TV entertainment in order to satisfy their insatiable thirst. Well, others hold that the TV stations have failed in their objectives to really satisfy the Cameroonian because their level of programming still leaves much to be desired.
This even pushed a parent, Mr. Henry Asong Achingale to table a complaint to CRTV and STV in ‘The Post Weekender’ of January 20. His argument is based on the fact that two media keep churning a chain of movies, just at the wrong hours of the day. According to Mr. Henry, these media have failed in their programming as the films are projected from 7:30 to 10 pm, the time when children and students are supposed to do their homework or study. He, therefore, proposes that the screening of ‘series’ can be programmed in the afternoon, when children relaxing back from school.
Another teething problem is the content of programmes broadcast. Given that we are generally a consumer population, other cultures tend to thrive here than anything about Cameroon can be heard elsewhere. A good example is the sensational ‘Couper Decaler’ that has eaten deep into fabric of our social life. The continuous presence of Nigerian movies that have really becoming saturating in the media. Besides, many now watch TV just for the fun of it without a guided principle or timetable on what to watch and when to watch what.
Canal 2 and STV 1&2 fighting CRTV
Public opinion now holds that with the emergence of the audiovisual landscape in Cameroon, more than half of CRTV’s audience has been lost to Canal 2 and STV 1&2. While Canal 2 has successfully maintain a steady crest of popularity in the Douala and Yaounde metropolis by creating a media with which Cameroonians can easily identify themselves, STV is staging a unique ‘Anglo-Saxon Media Revolution’. Canal 2 has also created a mark for itself by handling human-interest news and corporate news with so much dexterity; whereas STV is still battling with the idea of satisfying her audience with what is strictly ‘Cameroonian’ and what is ‘foreign’.
Notwithstanding, CRTV is unbeatable given that it is the state-own media and is powerful in terms of manpower, financial and technical resources. CRTV is still No. 1 in terms of public affairs and institutional news; her presence across the national territory really identifies her the ‘Indomitable Lions’ of the audiovisual in Cameroon second to none. It is thanks to CRTV that Cameroonians can watch the MTN African Cup of Nations live from Egypt.
With Mr. Adamou Vamoulké at the helm of CRTV, hopes are high that he is going to apply rigorous modern management techniques to uplift CRTV from the doldrums of laxity, ineffective management of resources, poor programming and misplacement of talents. With his new vision of ‘Enchanting CRTV Anew’, he is poised to move mountains and uplift boulders.