The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the globe has created a health crisis that has no doubt caused disruption to normal lifestyles.

Global death figure from the pandemic has been shockingly put at 101,000, while infections estimated to be over 1.9 million, with more cases being recorded daily.

In Nigeria, the figures might not be comparable to what is obtainable in America, Spain and Italy; however information emanating daily from the Nigerian Center for Disease Control (NCDC), has revealed a steady upward swing, especially with states reporting new cases daily.

Presently, Lagos State has the largest number of cases in Nigeria, with Eti Osa Local Government identified as the largest case in the state.

Confirming a worsening situation, the NCDC on Thursday, April 16, confirmed the total number of cases recorded in the country as 442. This was after announcing via its Twitter handle that 35 new cases had been recorded, confirming the need for a lockdown to prevent community transmission.

In the wake of the lockdown ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari in Lagos State, Ogun State and Abuja effective Monday, May 30th, one question that has risen is how will people staying at home having been denied the privilege of free movement get adequately informed?

Just like medical doctors treating infected patients, police officers maintaining law and order and the army still fighting insurgence despite the COVID-19 pandemic, informing the members of the public about development during this unique period via a wide range of content has become inevitable.

The importance of continued broadcast cannot be overemphasized, as without it, the information void which has become a serious problem would continue to increase.

Initially slated to last for two weeks, the lockdown was extended for the same number of weeks. There are those who have argued that the information pertaining to the extension and subsequent developments associated with the fight against the virus would have been unknown had news and entertainment platforms stopped broadcasting.

The ideology behind StarTimes continued operation is not peculiar to Nigeria. In Italy, at the peak of the virus and subsequent lockdown, the government made an exception for information providing platforms, deeming their work an essential service.

The importance of continued broadcasting cannot be dragged under the rug, as among other things, it also helps nip in the bud the rise of social media-based speculations, providing a platform for reliable and confirmed information.

In Nigeria, a country with most of its youths actively on social media, a lockdown that encompasses the media will only lead to a breakdown of public trust.

Continuous broadcasting is also bound to increase the public’s adherence to the safety measures suggested by global health organizations to combat the spread of COVID-19. This is why it is important for organizations such as StarTimes to continue to broadcast.

To meet this need, StarTimes which initially closed its doors in a bid to curtail the spread of the virus has allowed only a few necessary positions whose work is crucial to service delivery that cannot be accomplished at home come to the office in order to meet the need of informing and entertaining subscribers.

Explaining the situation, a call center agent stated that our contribution is out of care to the public.

“Most StarTimes staff are working at home now, only a few positions are working in the office as some work truly can’t be accomplished at home while they are very crucial in our service for our customers, an example being our call center. During the lockdown, TV becomes one of the most important means to help people keeping up with the latest trends and knowledge of COVID-19.

As a media company, it’s StarTimes’ responsibility to make sure all our customers could watch normally, be aware of what’s going on while having good content to enlighten them during staying at home. Just like policemen and doctors are still on duty to keep people safe, some of our colleagues are also adhered to their position only for serving our customers well,” she said.

To meet the demand for information, StarTimes has launched a dedicated TV programme “The StarTimes Daily’’ dishing out the latest information on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Asides the information from the program enlightening the public about the pandemic in Africa and in the world, it also shares prevention knowledge, countermeasures and experience of various countries so people can protect themselves and their family more effectively.

StarTimes has also surpassed some other service providers in the same sector in several ramifications, as far as its customer care is concerned. In the wake of complaints about the customer service of some other service providers in the same sector being unavailable due to the lockdown,
StarTimes has ensured unwavering quality service delivery with its customers reaching the offices via dedicated hotlines. Its staffs working from home have also been on the ground answering questions on social media platforms such as WhatsApp groups, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook; with all questions guaranteed to be answered within six hours.

According to StarTimes Digital Marketing Manager, Mr. Olumide Oluwasegun noted that “We made it a working code to our team that all customers’ questions on social media should be attended within six hours. All we did is for one simple purpose: to make sure customers could watch normally and joyfully. We are trying our best to serve them well, to let them still have something to enjoy during staying at home.”

This has eliminated anxiety associated with some other service providers in the same sector that have failed the public and denied them smooth access to information.

All these have been achieved despite most of StarTimes staff working from home, while only a few key sections resume to the office.

“For the few frontline hands, the need to ensure their protection cannot be overemphasized, leading to the drastic reduction of working hours, provision of exclusive shuttle buses to and from the office thereby eliminating direct contact with infected persons plying commercial buses, while the office and buses are sterilized twice daily.

“Keeping true to the watchword of protecting its staff at all times, We have also made other provisions for workers with the provision of face masks, sanitary products, temperature checking devices; with temperature checked morning and afternoon, strict adherence to social distancing, while business halls outside lockdown areas adhere to the rules of lockdown engagement with only one person allowed access at a time.

“Staff sit a reasonable distance of two chairs from each other. For business hall outside lockdown states, we also, provide sanitation products and masks. Also, we pay an extra allowance to staffs working regularly in lockdown areas,” said Assistant Operations Director Mr. Emmanuel Barhai.

“We respect and appreciate our staffs’ adhering to their position for serving customers well, and we care about our customers and hope they can enjoy staying at home with all issues that could be attended for the first time. Their work doesn’t go without a heartfelt appreciation, they are the silent heroes who have ensured that the public continue to keep informed,” Chief Executive Officer (CEO), of StarTimes, Mr. David Zhang said in appreciating StarTimes frontline hands.

Indeed, information is important and at this peculiar time, its availability cannot be overemphasized, hence the need for continuous broadcasting.

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