The media and entertainment industry in Nigeria is vibrant today because of the contributions of specific private individuals who took the scene by storm several years ago with the establishment of bi businesses in the industry. These individuals had dreams which they patiently nurtured into reality, transforming Nigeria’s media landscape into a force to reckon with in the African continent, with companies that offered quality content, programming, creativity and professionalism in media and entertainment business. One of such individuals is a personality who is one of the biggest media moguls in Africa, Benedict Murray-Bruce. His contributions to the media and entertainment industry in Nigeria are phenomenal and commendable.
Who is Ben Murray-Bruce?
Benedict Murray-Bruce was born on the 18th of February, 1956 in Lagos Nigeria, though he hails from Bayelsa State. He was born to Ijaw parents – Mullighan and Margaret Murray-Bruce, both from Akassa, Bayelsa State, Nigeria. He is one of the personalities that made the media industry in Nigeria vibrant. He became a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in March, 2015 where he represented Bayelsa East Constituency. Murray-Bruce holds the national honour of Member of the Order of the Niger (MON). He is the author of the book ‘Common Sense Revolution’.
Murray-Bruce had opportunity of attending some of the best schools in Nigeria and abroad. He attended Our Lady of Apostles, Yaba, Lagos, where he completed his primary education and St Gregory College, Obalende where he obtained the West African School Certificate before he proceeded to the University of South Carolina in the United States, where he received a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing in 1979. His sojourn in Los Angeles opened doors for his interest in the entertainment world to be developed into what eventually became a reality.
Murray-Bruce is married to Evelyn, an American. Their marriage is blessed with four children – three boys and a girl.
Journey into the Entertainment world
As a student, Murray-Bruce had met with a man who taught famous people, entertainers such as Janet Jackson, Todd Bridges and Garry Coleman. The teacher made it possible for him to meet the famous students, as well as celebrities like Redd Fox of Stanford and Sons fame, and the Jeffersons, and succeeded in establishing relationships that would open doors of opportunity for him in the world of entertainment. Murray-Bruce loved dancing and other forms of entertainment so his meeting with the famous entertainment personalities was a big dream for him. That was when he began to think of moving into the entertainment industry, though his father did not initially like the idea and reportedly threatened to break his legs if he did not refrain from dancing. But the threat did not sway his adamant son. His father, Mr. Mullighen Murray-Bruce, who owned Domino Stores that was quite popular in the 80s and 90s, eventually became proud of him for his achievements.
Murray-Bruce is one of the biggest media owners in Nigeria with a chain of successful media houses to his credit. In the 1990s, after the government liberalized the radio air waves, Silverbird Group established Rhythm 93.7 FM. This station was very unique at that time for promoting a less talk, more music brand. The radio started with old school jams and later began playing Afro hip hop. Rhythm 93.7 FM Port Harcourt, Rivers State was established in 2002. The radio station was also established in Awka, Abuja, and Yenagoa. Rhythm 93.7 FM radio stations are among the most-listened-to entertainment stations in the country. Though, Murray-Bruce also wanted a television license, his application was delayed as a result of conflicts with the management of the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission. When he was appointed director of Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) in 1999 during the administration of former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, Murray-Bruce was soon able to get approval for Silverbird Television, a station that also took the country by storm. The television station initially filled programming slots with syndicated foreign shows. Silverbird Television is one of the biggest television stations in Nigeria.
Murray-Bruce established Silverbird Group in Nigeria in 1980 with a loan of N20,000 from his father, having only six staff and two business activities, pageant and programme syndication. Reports had it that when the company was established, they could not afford an office space, so they used a small corner of Domino’s administrative office for their business activities. The company’s first set of pageantry jobs were the Miss Universe Nigeria Pageantry in 1983 and Miss Intercontinental Pageantry 1984. The company gradually grew to become one of the leading media and entertainment companies in the African entertainment industry, having hundreds of staff, and also becoming a conglomerate that owns radio stations, Silverbird television, Silverbird Cinema, Silverbird Entertainment and Silverbird Galleria. Bruce is also credited for rejuvenating Nigeria’s cinema culture with the launch of Silverbird Cinemas. Murray-Bruce also established Magic Morning Television in Los Angeles, which the Nigerian Diaspora and other Africans rely on for information about developments at home. He is in deed, a giant in Nigeria’s media ownership landscape.
Murray-Bruce’s journey to the top of the entertainment industry in Nigeria began in June 1980, when, as the son of a former UAC executive, he was able to secure funds from his family to start a music promotion enterprise. He was involved in promotion of American music artists in Nigeria, the firm organized promotions for such very popular bands as The Whispers, Shalamar, Lakeside and Carrie Lucas. This made Murray-Bruce and his establishment popular in Nigeria. His enterprise later delved into a dancing competition and gradually expanded into beauty pageant. The rest, as they say, is history. Today, he is a force to reckon with in entertainment business in Africa.
Murray Bruce owns the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria pageant. His entry into the pageantry business came at a time when the Miss Nigeria franchise was beginning to lose its glamour, the interest of Nigerians and its sponsor. His brainchild, Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria (MBGN) pageant eventually took over the market leadership from the Miss Nigeria, owned and operated by the Daily Times of Nigeria. It was on the platform of MBGN that Agbani Darego excelled and won the Miss World event in 2001. Murray Bruce also owns Mr. Nigeria, a male pageant that selects contestants for Mister World competition.
Murray-Bruce first got into politics in 2011 when he ran for the governorship election in Bayelsa State under the umbrella of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), though he was screened out at the party’s primary elections. He returned four years later, contested and was elected into the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in March, 2015. Before then he was appointed as a honorary special adviser in the cabinet of Bayelsa State governor, Seriake Dickson in 2012. Murray-Bruce was a very prominent and vibrant voice as a Senator, though he spent only one-term in the Senate.
Murray-Bruce has held some top positions in the society where his decision-making dynamism impacted lives. He was the Director-General of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) from 1999 to 2013; Chairman of the board of directors of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) in 2013; Member of the National Arts Theatre Management Board, the Federal Film Censors Board, the board of Nigerian Film Corporation, the National Film Distribution Company and the Nigerian anti-piracy action committee; Executive Director of the Black Music Association of America alongside Quincy Jones, Dick Griffey, and Stevie Wonder; Ben Murray Bruce was the Executive Director of collation for a free Africa with Late President Samora Machel of Mozambique and Reverend Jesse Jackson.
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Murray-Bruce has also received awards for his excellence in various fields. Among the awards are as follows: The University of Ibadan campus journalists’ “Showbiz Icon of the Year” Award in 2005; This Day award as one of the “Top Ten” Significant Nigerian Businessman in 2006; Life Achiever Award from the Nigerian Achievers’ award institute in 2006; Champion for Nation Building Award by Vivante Media Enterprise in 2007; Officer of the order of the Niger Award in 2014; Silverbird Personality of the week in 2015.
Ben Murray-Bruce Foundation
Murray-Bruce carries out philanthropic activities through his foundation – the Ben Murray Bruce Foundation. The foundation which was established in October 2014, has the primary aim of supporting the poor through providing relief items. The foundation also fights against all forms of child abuse and gender-based violence. Another major interest of the foundation is ensuring the welfare and educational quality of children from poor backgrounds. It has succeeded in funding the education of over 100 children. The foundation is waxing strong by the day with philanthropic activities.
Murray-Bruce is a major pillar in the history of media and entertainment in Nigeria with phenomenal contributions that revived and rejuvenated various sectors of the media industry in the country, especially pageantry business and cinema culture. His contributions made the media landscape competitive, opening the doors for more private owners to come in and establish radio and television stations, including cinema businesses that had impressive quality. He is in deed, an inspirational model to many Nigerians who wish to excel in media and entertainment industry in Nigeria and beyond.