Neil Oyenekan, MD of Lagos-based Lighthouse Television and Filmworks, tells Content Nigeria about his new reality show The Justice Court and how he came to create the project.
Oyenekan, who had been developing and making TV programmes for over 10 years, says he was approached by a client who was concerned about the justice system, which led to him developing dispute resolution show The Justice Court, where real people present real cases in front of a judge.
Oyenekan says he realised it was an original idea as he could find no country in Africa with its own factual courtroom TV show.
“The further we looked into the grass roots situation, the more we began to understand such a show is needed, not just for TV but also for people in the community,” he says. “It is a brilliant entertainment show with an educational element that can be used to teach the mainstream about justice and also help the judiciary deal with cases they are probably overwhelmed by.”
He decided that, socially, a factual courtroom show would be “useful beyond entertainment.”
Oyenekan was keen to create a series directed at the primary market while maintaining the human element of the drama, and was aware the Nigerian audience had to warm to the concept.
The first 26-episode season is produced by Lighthouse and Avonix Nigeria and was shot at Hotsports Studios in Lagos. Fronted by Nigerian judge Funmi Asaolu, it launches tomorrow and will air on NTA2 on Saturdays at 6.30pm and Superscreen TV on Sundays at 8.30pm.
In selecting a suitable network, one of the things Oyenekan was concerned about was finding one that understood the show and could give them the best time slots.
As to why he created the format rather than purchasing one from the international market, he says: “It’s all down to budget. We realised that occasionally you have to develop it from the bottom up, and if you cannot afford to buy a format then making yours is the way out.
“If formats from China can do well globally, what does Africa have that is still in hiding? Africa has a huge diaspora which is beginning to constitute a huge base of income. Some things are unique to Africa that are of interest to the rest of the world. We need to dig in more to see what’s there that is fascinating.”
Elaborating on what makes this show different, he says: “We identified that unless there is some kind of value for the viewer, it will just be entertainment. We created a format where the lawyer [Judge Funmi Asaolu] is a mediator who settles issues in society.
“If the viewer can see the court come in to its neighbourhood, then it makes it more relatable and closer to them. It is a show that means well.”
The show will also be tested in other African countries including Senegal and South Africa.