He is admired by many of his listeners and viewers in the Volta Region and beyond. Yesterday, Laura Eyram of myghairwaves.com caught up with one of Volta Region’s celebrated male voices on TV and Radio, Bismark Sellally Lawson in an exclusive interview. Bismark currently doubles as a host and Marketing Officer for Global FM and Volta 1 TV, the premier TV Station of the Volta Region.
Sit, relax, and enjoy what Bismark has to say about his life as a media person, his successes and struggles.
Laura: Can you tell me a little about your background as a presenter and the station you’re working for?
Bismark: My story of how I became a radio presenter is one I refer to as a miracle. I remember in June 2014, a month after I finished my Senior High School, I was called to come for an interview at TOSH 103.9 FM in Ho. I went to the interview that day to meet the CEO, Mr. Anthony Dagbey and after several minutes of interrogation, I remember he said, let us try him. Try, because, I had failed all the questions. I did not know how to mix songs, how to handle the console and by that, I mean how to fade up and down – a complete novice. The only test I passed was that of Confidence. I had an overdose of it that day I believe. I was responding No! to all the questions but with a certain amount of vigor and I believe that was what worked the magic. I began my attachment after SHS in June 2014 and by August 2014, someone, a presenter did not come to work and my boss asked that I sit in and that was it, he liked it, and the listeners who called in to the show I believe also love the new voice. This was how it all began. From there, I was hosting a worship program at dawn and then joining the morning show as well. Later, I became the drive time host and the host of Borborbor program on Saturdays until I left the station in 2016 to Global 105.1 FM in the same year.
Laura: Tell me about your education, career path, and how long you’ve been working with both stations.
Bismark: In 2015, I heeded to a piece of advice from Hon. Ransford Delali Kasu, the then Assembly Member of Klefe Traditional Area and my cousin, now Dr. Delali Letsa both of whom thought I was already doing well with radio, though without any formal training in the craft, there was no need at the time going to read any course relating to the field. Hon. Ransford suggested I read marketing and so I went further to read marketing at the Ho Technical University for my HND while balancing it with my work with Global FM. I am currently with KNUST pursuing my degree in the same discipline. Although I still present on radio, I also double as the Marketing Officer for Global FM and Volta 1 TV, the premier TV Station of the Volta Region.
Laura: What’s the content of the program you host and how have your listeners grown over the years?
Bismark: Killing two birds with one stone, I now host a show, U & I on Volta 1 TV because of my presence at Global FM. V1 TV belongs to the GLOBAFEST LIMITED family, the umbrella name for both V1 TV and Global FM. My programs on radio have evolved over the years, initially, at Global, I was the night king, the host of an overdrive program, Monday to Friday from 9 – 11 PM and on Saturday, same time, I host a program called YOUTH CAFE, which focuses primarily on issues concerning young people. These programs have had a great impact on listeners because they always wrap up their day with me. After all the troubles of life in the day, I massage and resuscitate them with good music, information, and motivation for the next day. On V1 TV, I host a program dubbed, U & I a personality profile program with a special interest in hurdles people have succumbed to be where they are today. Its impacts are tremendous. Aside from it giving hope to viewers, it also releases the narrators from their mental prisons into freedom, and God is given the praise.
Laura: What problems have you faced hosting both programs and can we have an example of such?
Bismark: The challenges were and are numerous. However, I will touch on a few and leave the rest to the future to deal with. Firstly, my major problem was that I came into the industry as a complete neophyte with completely no knowledge in the area. Indeed, I was up for catastrophe, I had to learn both the good, the bad, and the ugly from those who were there before I went. Whether they taught me a good thing or not, I could not tell. My challenge was that I was learning the craft on stage. People were listening and correcting me with almost everything, my pronunciation of words was bad, my opinions expressed were bad from the beginning but I am sure I am getting better. I remember the Volta Regional Police command was lining up some suspected criminals for identification and we had discussed the importance of the exercise extensively that morning and when we were done, my colleague asked if I was going to the venue and I said on live radio I would never step my foot there, not knowing, I had completely psyched the public against the exercise. Such naked ignorance! The second but last challenge I wanna talk about is Finance. There is no salary for media galamseyers. You depend on tips from every corner, guests, colleagues, and listeners but to wait for the month to end for you to get a salary, then you should be dreaming. It got to a point where I was being given an allowance though and you can imagine the joy.
Laura: What motivates you each day to get behind the mic to reach out to people?
Bismark: There were a number of things that happened that should get me tired and to want to let go of everything and go focus on something far away from the radio but tell you what? It’s been six years already and it feels like I am just starting. Why? Because of passion. like we all say, Passion is the only thing that will keep you at something that is not giving you the expected result and the same it is with radio. Aside from passion, I can talk about the new family I have all of a sudden joined. So many people now know you through radio and they want to hear from you, they need a motivator, songs to heal their soul and information that keep them informed. These are some of the motivations. You are now popular and some goodies start coming in and you just wanna keep on because maybe, just maybe.
Laura: What have been some of the successes in your career and what helps have your program offered to your listeners?.
Bismark: As a radio host, you cannot tell what success is because until you meet listeners who tell you they enjoy your show, you cannot tell who is even listening to you especially if you don’t get to open the phone lines. With that too, there are those who are serial callers and you might be wrong using their data to mark yourself. However, my show, for example, the youth cafe has helped young people to have a conversation around issues that confront them. From business, religion, gender, relationship and sex, and all trending issues, young people have had the chance to share their views on them while taking advice from adults who join them on the show occasionally and those who call to contribute to during the phone-in-segment. On TV, I help heal the wounds of people who have had to deal with and or survive a disturbing situation in the past. These stories also help people to learn how to deal with issues of life.
Laura: Can you let us a little into your personal life, married with children yet?
Bismark: I am a family man but I am not married yet. I will surely get married in the very near future. With the question about children, if you allow me to chip In one comic relief, I will say that I don’t have a child yet but that does not rule off the possibility of me having one… Loll. I won’t be surprised if in the future children are lined up at my entrance as mine and those whom I would gladly welcome and change their names to mine…just a joke but on a more serious note, I don’t have one yet.
Laura: Why are you still with the media house you work for? Is it only because of what comes into your pocket or there’s more?
Bismark: I am still working for the station because it’s the best. Global FM’s brand is heavy and there’s an opportunity to learn. Colleagues at Global don’t swallow anything just like that. Whether an error on-air or content for airing, they will scrutinize it and ensure it’s the best. Not many people will mount console at Global. When you have access, don’t be too comfortable, it might just be your last time if you don’t get things right. It challenges you to be the best. That is why I am at Global. Secondly, my CEO is an amazing person, she always paints pictures of better tomorrow. She wants us to succeed. She allows us to learn and she is patient till we get better. Such a person, you just want to work your heart out to contribute to the growth of her company.
Laura: What help do you think should be given to the various media houses and personnel’s in the Volta Region to enable them to rub shoulders with their counterparts in other Regions and what in your opinion does the media in the Volta Region lack?
Bismark: This is my favorite, there is a vast difference in these two industries, the industry in Accra and that of Volta. One big thing is that there are not many companies in the Volta Region and so sponsorship becomes a problem and even those companies here in the Region do not understand the importance of adverts and sponsorship or they are in monopoly markets and there is no need to invest in publicity. Big companies in Accra also limit their advertisement to Accra and Kumasi and instead of getting down to other parts of the country including the Volta Region, they would rather pay one TV Station in Accra that has a national viewership like TV3 and the job is done. It is making the media work in the Volta Region difficult and this time not only for employees but for employers as well. Huge overhead costs without a corresponding income every month is leading to employers and owners of media houses in the region to either continue borrowing money to pay their staff or refuse to pay them at all. It is a great challenge.
Now, this is what I think and it’s my advice to all those in the space right now who are yet to have something else doing outside the media circle and those who are yet to step in; they should begin to treat radio and media job as a part-time job while investing in acquiring other skills that will sustain them in case media fails to put money in their pocket. It is frustrating and almost regrettable to gain popularity in an area without money in your pocket to support it. You are famous but you are hungry, dirty, and unhappy. It is not good and all practitioners must begin to adjust and strategize. Before you go to the media school especially in the Volta region, learn how to do something else. Read a different course that you can fall on the moment you are faced with issues of survival in the media.
Laura: Thank you very much for speaking with myghairwaves.com…
Bismark: The pleasure is mine. Thank you for taking interest in what we do here in the Volta Region and for giving me this opportunity.