No amount of attacks will stop broadcast reforms – Minister

Solomon Chung, Lagos

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The Nigerian government has said that there are no amount threats, illogical complains and sponsored attacks will hinder the government in carrying out the planned reforms in the National Broadcasting Commission.

This position was made known by the country’s Information and Culture Minister Mr Lai Mohammed when he addressed online publishers on Sunday in Lagos, South West Nigeria.

According to the Minister, since the inauguration of the committee saddled with the responsibility of implementing the Presidential approved reforms for the country’s broadcast regulator, there have been attacks, many of them sponsored, from some quarters.

“As I speak, plans are ongoing to launch more coordinated attacks, with a view to truncating the implementation of the approved recommendations. Let me be straight: No amount of attacks sponsored or otherwise, will stop the implementation of the approved recommendations.

”And only non-patriots and anarchists will kick against measures aimed at putting an end to fake news and hate speech, especially in our broadcast industry. Only those who are guilty should be afraid of the efforts to sanitize the broadcast industry. Responsible broadcasters have nothing to fear. This is not a move to stifle free speech or gag anyone. But purveyors of fake news and hate speech should not expect to sleep easy.”

Mr. Mohammed said as for monopolies, they stunt growth, kill talents and discourage creativity. He said the clearest example of the creative energy that can be unleashed when monopoly is totally broken can be seen in the telecommunications industry.

He further stated that the broadcast industry has also been liberalised. But any vestige of monopoly is antithetical to the liberalisation of the broadcast industry and must be dismantled.

“In the case of Nigeria, it’s the monopoly of content that breeds anti-competition practices. You cannot use your financial or whatever power to corner and hold on tight to a chunk of the market, preventing others from having access. Such monopolies are crumbling everywhere in the world and Nigeria cannot be left out.

Speaking on the issue of fake news and hate speech, the Minister told the online publishers that they are expected to remain in the vanguard of the efforts to tackle fake news and hate speech.

“We expect you to educate our people on the efforts being made, especially by the government, in this regard. This Administration has no intention of muzzling the media or stifling free speech. Our campaign is against fake news and hate speech. And we will not rest until our media space has been rid of fake news and hate speech.”

Minister revealed that the committee to handle the implementation of the new reforms in the broadcast industry is also saddled with ending all forms of monopoly detrimental to the actualization of the immense potential of the broadcast industry.

“A situation where a few people corner a chunk of the industry to the detriment of others, especially our teeming and talented youths, is totally unacceptable and untenable.”

It would be recalled that some of the approval given by the President to reform the NBC include;

  1. i) 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.

 

  1. ii) A review of 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 – Wilful 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. – Amendment of the NBC Act to enable NBC license WebTv and radio stations.

 

iii) Recruitment of more monitoring staff for the NBC. At the moment, there are only about 200 Staff monitoring about 1,000 radio and television stations.

 

  1. iv) Deployment of adequate monitoring equipment and technologies for the NBC and, finally….

 

  1. v) Enhancement of welfare packages of NBC staff to avoid their compromise in the line of duty