Solomon Chung, Abuja
The Nigerian government has put the necessary mechanism in place to end all forms of monopoly in the country’s broadcast industry.
The country’s Minister of Information and Culture Mr. Lai Mohammed disclosed this on Thursday in Abuja when he inaugurated the National Broadcasting Commission reform implementation committee.
Ending monopoly in the industry suggests that a broadcast station cannot solely be allowed exclusive right to broadcast particularly contents without other stations also enjoying rights to do same for such contents if they so wish.
Terms of reference
The 7-member committee has in its terms of reference many other reforms that will change the country’s broadcast eco system for good.
One of the major task was to implement the recommendations of the committee on the NBC reforms as approved by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The committee is also expected to immediately commence work on all statutory, legal and regulatory frameworks for further legislative action on the review of the NBC Act by the National Assembly.
Deliver on the commissions
Reeling out some of the terms of reference, the Minister said the committee was to immediately assess and propose equipment, materials and training needed to make the NBC a modern and well-positioned regulator in a bid to deliver on the commissions mandate in the 21st century, also with global standard.
“The committee is also to liaise with relevant agencies to ensure the provision of the manpower needs of the Commission to enable it function optimally and to work out the modalities for a competitive and reasonable salaries, wages and other welfare needs of the staff of the Commission to avoid compromise in the cause of duty,” he said.
The terms of reference revealed that the committee was to establish necessary protocols for the establishment or appointment of professionals or technocrats (non-partisan personality) to run the agency, and appointment into the board of the NBC.
Others included immediate establishment and publicity of a new sanctioning, fines and penalty regime that is in line with international best practice, to promote professionalism and appropriate sanctions to serve as a deterrent to erring practitioners against misconduct, especially hate speech, violence and spread of fake news among others.
The committee is also to establish and publish a new regulation for the licensing of Web and Internet broadcasters/International broadcasters in Nigeria.
Institute an inquiry
It would be recalled that following deliberations at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) of March 27th 2019, on the unprofessional and unethical conduct of some broadcast stations, especially before and during the last general elections, President Muhammadu Buhari directed the country’s Minister of Information and Culture to institute an inquiry into the conduct of the stations in question and report back to the Council.
Consequently, a five-member committee was inaugurated against that backdrop to find out to what extent the NBC was able to effectively carry out its regulatory role before and during the 2019 general elections. The committee delivered on the assignment and made recommendations which the President approved.
Some of the recommendations approved by Mr. President include the issue of Independence of the NBC from political interference in the exercise of its regulatory powers, particularly with respect to the issuance and withdrawal of broadcasting license in the country.
Breaches relating to hate speeches
However the committee suggested to the President that it was imperative to review the National Broadcasting Code and extant broadcasting laws to reflect the following amendments; Upward review of fines from N500,000 to N5,000,000 for breaches relating to hate speeches, inciting comments and indecency.
Also that any willful repeat of infractions on three occasions after levying fine on a station to attract suspension of license and the upgrading of breach of political comments relating to hate speech and divisive comments to ”Class A” offence in the country’s Broadcasting Code.
The committee suggested to the President that there should be an amendment of the NBC Act to enable the regulator license WebTv and radio stations, including foreign broadcasters beaming signals into the country.
On human resources to take up the newly expected mandate, the committee suggested recruitment of more monitoring staff for the NBC.
Statistics show that at the moment, there are only about 200 Staff monitoring about 1,000 radio and television stations across the country which is grossly inadequate.
Other recommendation by the committee to the government includes, deployment of adequate monitoring equipment and technologies for the NBC.
Responding on behalf of the committee, the chairman Professor Amrstrong Idachaba thanked the government for the confidence reposed on members. He said the reforms in NBC is long overdue considering technological realities in the 21st century as well as the increasing n umber of broadcast outfits in the country.
According to him, even the behavior pattern of people is evolving and of course the political space has change overtime.
As it stands, the Minister charged the newly inaugurated National Broadcasting Commission reform implementation committee to complete the assignment in 6 weeks.
These are members of the committee
- A) Prof. Armstrong Idachaba, Director of Monitoring of the NBC
- B) Sir Godfrey Ohuabunwa, Acting Chairman of the Broadcasting
Organisations of Nigeria (BON)
- C) J.K. Ehicheoya, Esq, Director, Legal Services, Federal Ministry of
Information and Cultuyre
- D) Hajia Binta Adamu Bello, Secretary, Association of Local
Governments of Nigeria (ALGON)
- E) Mr. Ibrahim Jimoh, Director of Administration, FRCN
- F) Hon. Agbo Kingsley Ndubuisi, Board Member, NBC
- G) Mr. Joe Mutah, Chief Press Secretary, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture