Nigeria is inflicted with the sores of a ‘single’ story. The stereotypical canticles of corruption, internet fraud, terrorism and gross ineptitude. However, this image is at variance with the real Nigeria and Nigerians whose gusto for life is unparalleled.
BattaBox  – a Nigerian Conversation – is an online television that captures the genuine rendition of the country and shares with global netizens.
“BattaBox is everything Nigerian – music, film, street-life, news, comedy, cooking and much, much more. ‘For Nigerians, by Nigerians’ – YOU upload your videos, photos, shout-outs, as well as discussing anything in our real-time video chat-room – and we’ll make sure your voice is heard.”
Christian Purefoy (CP), a director in BattaBox gave us a glimpse of this evolving online television. CP has worked in Nigeria for over seven years as a freelance journalist and CNN’s West Africa correspondent.
Nwachukwu Egbunike (NE): What is BattaBox TV?
CP: BattaBox is ‘a Nigerian conversation’ – music, film, street-life, news, comedy and much, much more. BattaBox is a video platform that allows anyone to upload videos to share an emotional moment, discuss a hot topic and promote an idea. If you want to make your voice heard, you have a video or photo you want to share, you need a big break for your music video, or you have a great show idea…
NE: Going by the clips on your site, they show an array of mundane but surprisingly, momentous stories of everyday Nigerian life. What and who motivated this idea of video communication?
CP: Nigeria is such a vibrant place that even the most mundane is crackling with energy. We hope the BattaBox platform will enable Nigerians to harness that energy with the huge potential of the internet. With the explosion of mobile phones (and their video cameras!) and the coming of the internet – there are now the tools in the hands of every Nigerian to explore, share and make their voice heard. We hope this will not only bring entertainment but positive change to peoples lives, not just in Nigeria but the diaspora in the rest of the world.
NE: Why Lagos, Nigeria? You could have as well focused on any other part of the globe?
CP: This is a Nigerian company so there's no place like home! No other place on earth has such a vibrant character, everyone has something to say, every street corner has a story to tell – we hope BattaBox will provide the platform to promote and share that energy. And, of course, we believe there is enormous business potential in Nigeria – so there's no where else we'd rather be!
NE: Any plans to get more videos from other parts of the country?
CP: BattaBox is a Nigeria-wide community, but so far many of our videos are from Lagos. This is simply a technical issue: the internet in Nigeria is concentrated in the big cities for the time-being. It is costly and very slow for anyone in the rural areas to upload videos. We believe this will change rapidly over the next few years and so you will see more videos from outside of the major urban areas. However, we do have plenty of people coming back home ‘from the village’ with videos that we're uploading and would love your readers to send in more!
NE: You seem to rely on citizen reporters to make and upload videos. What are the criteria for selecting/accepting videos that are finally hoisted on your website?
CP: We accept all and any videos – as long as they are not inflammatory. If there are problems (maybe with the video or sound quality) then we try to get in touch with the person and help one-on-one to get it uploaded. This is a new platform in Nigeria so we are happy to help anyone who has an idea but maybe have a few questions ( for example, if they have a series of cooking class videos, etc )
NE: What has been your audience reaction? Bearing in mind that you currently rely on the social media platform.
CP: Audience reaction has been amazing! Our viewing figures better than we'd hoped, comments and feedback on the videos are great – everyone seems to enjoy any of the videos they watch! – and people stop me when they see me around town to say they love the site. So yes it's a social media platform but people are talking about it in the real world!
NE: What is your business model? And what is your strategy for being financially sustainable?
CP: Our business model is advertising – we are relying on our own personal investments and want to grow this business independently and organically. We have not rolled out any advertising yet as we continue to establish ourselves but once we start to make money you can be sure we will be investing straight back into BattaBox and Nigeria!
NE: In your opinion, what is the future of web based citizen media sites in Africa?
CP: In many ways, the future is already here in Africa. Everyone with a mobile phone able to access and share on citizen media sites allowing them to bypass the traditional state broadcasters – it's already possible. What is needed now is cheaper costs and easier accessibility, and like the explosion of mobile phones we believe this is inevitable and simply a matter of time.
However, security remains a serious issue for any citizen media sites in Africa. Their voices may be online, but people still live in the real world and any government or other intimidation of journalists (online or traditional) must be stopped.
NE: What is your take about the power of videos for social change in Africa?
CP: Video, I believe, is the most powerful communication medium. Through video – both recorded but increasingly real-time – people will be able to tell their story themselves, and not rely on a ‘third-party’ journalist. This will have a profound effect on empowering social change, not just in Africa but the world. I can't give away all our secrets but hopefully soon start seeing this happening in Nigeria.
NE: The radio remains the most potent developmental tool, followed by the television. The reason being the spread it has among the rural poor in the continent. Consequently, do you think that the social media can ever match up to these two?
CP: Don't underestimate the power of the minority who can currently access and afford the internet in Nigeria – the burgeoning middle-class. In Egypt recently, it was this ‘urban middle-class’ that used the internet to bring change.
But yes, the internet in Nigeria is still a few years away from having the reach of the radio or television – the infrastructure and costs remain a huge issue. We do however believe social media will surpass the traditional media in both spread and potential to bring change.
NE: Can we peer into the future of BattaBox?
CP: We are so excited at the unexpected ways in which BattaBox is being used and growing that we're almost unsure how it will look in the future ourselves! But we hope you will see more people wanting to put up their own shows, voices, jokes, fashion ideas and more. We have lots of ideas and potential in the pipeline – but hope you don't mind if we keep them ‘under our hat’ for the moment! But one thing I can tell you is that we'll soon be unrolling our Google+ Pidgin Hangouts!
NE: Last words…
CP: Thank you to everyone who is getting involved in BattaBox! We all gather round and watch everytime we get a new video – there's nothing we'd rather be doing.