The Nigerian government has directed the immediate commencement of the much awaited reforms in the country’s broadcast industry, particularly the industry regulator, known as the National Broadcasting Commission.
The country’s Information and Culture Minister Mr. Lai Mohammed disclosed some aspects of the reforms when he received the report of the National Broadcasting Commission Reforms Implementation Committee on Tuesday in Abuja.
The Minister affirmed that the reforms are going to revolutionize the National Broadcasting Commission in several ways.
“It is apparent to me that for the Nigerian Broadcast industry to play its critical role of providing information for national development, there is the urgent need to come up with regulations that will address existing challenges.”
It is against this backdrop that the Minister directed the National Broadcasting Commission to take the following actions in line with the report of the Implementation Committee:
To immediately come up with fresh regulations that will promote the local broadcast industry and protect the Nigerian broadcast industry from monopolistic tendencies.
According to the Minister, these regulations are also in the area of advertising tariffs and production of advertisements in Nigeria.
“To immediately come up with regulations for the broadcast of content on the Internet and the web. Of course, the regulations must not in any way gag the press or hinder their universal role of providing valuable information to the citizenry. The regulations shall however ensure that those who provide broadcast services on the Internet do so with responsibility.”
The Minister said after some 27 years into the life of the NBC, there was the need to re-evaluate the applicability of some of its laws.
“Following the implementation framework presented to me, I will immediately commence the process of forwarding an Executive Bill for consideration of the Federal Executive Council and further legislative action. The Bill will address the existing lacuna in the areas of the regulation of the Internet, the ongoing Digital Switch Over, Digital Access Fee, and insulation of the regulator from partisan politics.”
According to the Minister, an important aspect of Mr. President’s approval for the reform of the NBC was in the area of the welfare of staff. He then directed the NBC to commence work on an enhanced welfare package for the staffers of the Commission, with a view to implementing such as soon as possible.
“We shall therefore commence the process for the acquisition of modern broadcast equipment for the Commission for the purpose of monitoring and enforcement. Similarly, government shall commence the process of beefing up the material, training and manpower needs of the Commission.”
Also, the Minister stated that in line with Mr. President’s directive, the Commission will be mandated to amend the Code (through new Regulations) to reflect the following:
“Upward review of fines from N500, 000 to N5, 000,000 for breaches relating to hate speeches, inciting comments and indecency, Willful repeat of infractions on three occasions after levying fine on a station to attract suspension of license.
Upgrade of breach of political comments relating to hate speeches and divisive comments to ”Class A” offence in the Broadcasting Code.
Over the years, there has been no love lost between the Regulator and the Industry. Government believes that a trustworthy relationship is key to the development of the industry.”
As a way of establishing that collaboration between the Industry and the Regulator, and to ensure transparency, the Minister submitted that the NBC Act will be amended to make provision for the appointment of a representative of the broadcasters Union for both public and private broadcasters on the Board of the Commission.
“In the process of this work, we observed that almost every country is rising to the challenge of hateful, abusive, harmful and fake content on the social media.
Our committee however recognizes that Nigerians have the right to expression, through all available platforms for media-communication but note that it is vital that platforms owners and producers of content exercise responsibility for the good of society.”
The committee however made it clear that there was the need for necessary legal status for the reforms to be effective, on that note the committee said it has made concrete provisions for an executive Bill that will be reflective of the current era of digitization and the internet.