Specialisation is the future of radio – Layinka Adagun

Four years ago, in 2012, the Lagos state government unveiled the Lagos Traffic Radio with the sole aim of providing firsthand information on all modes of transportation, traffic news, traffic alert, especially alerts on diversion. The station which airs on 96.1fm helps to mitigate the stress commuters and transporters may go through in the traffic snarls popularly known as ‘go slow’ or ‘hold up’. With regular news and infos on traffic, Lagos Traffic Radio helps commuters and motorists plan their routes and thereby help them save enough man hours. Mr Layinka Adagun who is the pioneer General Manager of the station since the station came into being, in this revealing encounter shares his experience on how the station operates.

Excerpts:

In the beginning

When it was created four years ago, it was not meant to go 24 hours. People are advocating for it but I think for now, after midnight you have only fewer vehicles on the road. So what we might end up doing might just be occasional interjections like fire outbreaks, crime going on somewhere like robbery, but you don’t go on air and start announcing, you just have to talk to policemen. The radio broadcast is between 5 am and midnight. Actually, that is when we expect traffic on the road. When the Honourable Commissioner for Transportation visited the radio station, we were talking about going 24 hours. For now, we transmit 5 am to midnight. Our listenership cuts across every stratum of society. I don’t think it is feasible and advisable to go 24 hours because of the state of insecurity in the country and the logistics involved. Though Lagos is very free and safe when it comes to security gradually we will get there. We open our station by 5 am and shut down by 12 midnight. Though there have been occasions where we added an hour or 30 minutes. Like there was a particular day that there was traffic all over Lagos, as at midnight, LASTMA officials were still calling us and members of the public were still asking questions. So we took the initiative on our own and I just asked them to leave the station on till 1 am that day.

Partnership with LASTMA

There is one peculiarity about our station, it’s thematic, transport based. We focus on transportation and all modes of transportation. It’s a particular type of radio station that has no reporter in its employ. Just one reporter reporting in the Governor’s Office but we have hundreds of reporters on the streets. Our activities are complemented by a team of LASTMA personnel who file in traffic updates and situation reports live from various locations across the state and Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) in all, has about 33 zones, so they file in reports from all those zones. They are not our reporters. When you look at the kind of relationship between LASTMA and Lagos Traffic Radio, we represent the most thriving synergy in the public service. Without them, we would just be playing music and entertainment and without us, nobody would know what they are doing, they would just be winking in the dark. So we complement each other, they give us traffic updates from all their zones and mostly from the control room in Ikeja here. We cannot do without LASTMA personnel. They are on the roads. We can’t operate differently from LASTMA because they are going to send their alerts and they are on the road. They are seeing it as its happening and filing in live reports. But for our other news like world news or national news, we just get them from other sources of news.

Managing Traffic Radio

The station is managed by thirty-one members of staff who were initially deployed from Radio Lagos /Eko FM. I used to be the Deputy Director, Editorial and I was deployed here as Deputy Station Director until my appointment as General Manager in August 2015. We have very small personnel here; 31 members of staff with 26 freelance artists. We just felt there is no need to staff some of them. Those who are freelance are none members of staff, they just come do their work and leave.

Programming, contents and advertising

Our programme contents are simple. Apart from traffic update and traffic monitoring and reporting, we do what other stations do. We have entertainment programmes, we have the English and pidgin segments and the pidgin segment comes between 12 pm and 2 pm every day and it’s called “Lunch Time Waka”. Between 2 pm to 4 pm, we have “Bosenlo” that’s the Yoruba segment. The busiest after the early morning Highway is the “Return Trip”, which goes on as from 4 pm to 8 pm when people are returning. It’s just a repeat of the traffic problems you have in the morning. By 9 pm, sometimes when there are no traffic problems here and there, we have musical entertainment, we are always on air as long as our monitors are sending in their reports. Sometimes people send text messages. If you want to send messages or contribute to our programmes, park your vehicles before sending them. But in most cases, those who call or send messages are passengers, not the drivers. We find it difficult to have recorded programmes because of traffic updates. For instance, in a 2-hour programme, you might have 8 or 10 traffic update, calls from traffic monitors or by members of the public. That will not be possible if you have a recorded programme. So in most case s,we are not doing what regular radio stations are doing. Sometimes, people bring some type of announcement to our station but we tell them to take it to Radio Lagos. We don’t take obituaries, because the shock might cause an accident to a driver on the road. We don’t take adverts on traditional medicines; we don’t take adverts on alcohol or cigarettes. If we are seen promoting alcohol, we have no cause to tell the driver not to drink and drive because we have promoted the advert. Nobody said we shouldn’t but we are not competing with our sister stations. Let them take the money there. They need that money more than us. We are not many and at the same time, we give more time to the public announcement. Most of our airtime is dominated by telephone networks. They will just buy an hour or two and it is only their adverts you will hear for that period. When we say we don’t run after money, we mean too much adverts would be a distraction to our traditional function of providing firsthand information on all modes of transportation. We give traffic updates every 15 minutes and too much adverts would compete with that.

Management style

My management style is all-inclusive. I try to carry everybody along. Because when we do well and are getting all the accolades, we should all bask in the glory. So, everybody is doing his or her best in order to ensure we continue to excel. I also have a listening ear, though l am the boss. My staff even come to me to share their personal problems. But that does not mean that everybody does not know his bounds. Future of Traffic Radio and broadcasting The future plan is to go 24 hours. What we will not be able to do in the afternoon as a result of too much emphasis on traffic, maybe we will do it at night, maybe entertainment. Now we are the most credible traffic station and the first in Africa. The only other one you have is in South Africa and it is on the web, it is not a station, it is only a state government that can do that. Very soon, specialisation will become the vogue in radio broadcasting. You will see people running radio on Short Wave Medium that does not require too much capital outlay airing programme solely on fashion and lifestyle, health or agriculture, or just pure entertainment throughout the day. Imagine hearing something like: ‘’this is Agric radio”.

About Layinka Adagun, GM, Lagos Traffic Radio

I am a journalist, August 2016 I will be 58 years, I was born in 1958. I don’t keep malice. I attended Ahmadiyya Primary School, Elegbata Lagos between 1964 and 1970, I was at Ansar udeen Grammar School between 1971 and 1975, I went to Government College , Yola between 1975 and 1977. I also went to the Federal School of Arts and Science. I was one of those that were forced by the 1988 civil service reforms to go back to school. The aspect of the reform that said if you don’t have a degree you won’t go beyond level 14. I quickly enrolled for a part-time programme at the Lagos State University and studied History in 1996. I had my Masters in History in 2003 and I’m rounding up my PhD in History from the University of Ibadan. I was also at the Nigeria Institute of Journalism ( NIJ) and Times Journalism Institute ( TJI) , for a professional diploma in Journalism. I worked at the Supreme Court as an Account Clerk. By the time I Ieft for my Masters, I was already a Senior Current Affairs Officer. I had gone through reportorial, editorial but the only place I had not covered was sports. Hobbies and relaxation I unwind by reading and listening to music. The only assets I have are books. I love reading. I am a social person. I am the Secretary of my Ansar-u-deen Old Students Association, 71/75 chapter.

Editor’s note: Mr Adagun recently retired from LTR.

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