The Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON) has written to the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to express serious concern about stakeholders’ declining trust in the Commission’s independence. BON accused NBC of gradually sliding and becoming an agent of media suppression and warned that it may lose its credibility as an unbiased regulator.
The letter, dated April 3, 2023, and signed by Dr. Yemisi Bamgbose, BON’s Executive Secretary, said its concern is heightened stems by recent developments in the Nigeria broadcast industry which have pointed to the direction that NBC is gradually losing its credibility and retrogressively acting as an agent of media repression in the country.
BON stated that the “imposition of fines on Channels Television and many other cases in the recent past are not only arbitrary but smacks of high handedness which is already suffocating the broadcast media in the country.”
The organisation said it is unfortunate that broadcast stations in particular and broadcast professionals in general, unlike in the past, no longer trust the professional judgement of the NBC when it comes to allegations of infractions and imposition of fines, saying it had reasons to conclude that NBC is being influenced in its decisions to the detriment of the industry which it is supposed to nurture and grow.
It recalled that BON had on several occasion complained about NBC being at all times the accuser, the prosecutor and the judge in instances of alleged infraction by broadcast stations, saying that is not the intention of the framers of the laws and code of NBC.
It also called the attention to the fact that NBC is operating with the revised 6th edition of the Nigerian Broadcasting Code which it reminded the Commission that a court of competent jurisdiction in its judgment had declared illegal and that the judgement has not been overturned till date.
BON cited the imposition of N5m fine on Channels Television for alleged “severe” infraction committed during a live interview programme titled “Poiitics Today” which featured Mr. Datti Baba Ahmed, the Vice-Presidential candidate of Labour Party and professionally anchored by Mr. Seun Okinbaloye in its episode of March 22, 2023 as a case in point.
BON said it was “unfortunate that NBC, without due process, relied on a petition from media and publicity campaign committee of a political party to impose heavy fines on Channels Television when due process of investigation was not followed.” It referred the Commission to section 14.3.1 (a) (b) (c) (d) as well as Section 15.3.1 (a) (b) (c) of the Nigerian Broadcasting Code.
BON therefore requesting the NBC Director General to urgently review of all fines imposed in the recent past on stations by NBC based on alleged “severe infractions” and withdrawal of the letter containing the imposition of Five million fine on Channels Television because the station did not violate any section of the code rather NBC itself violated the code.
BON pointed out that Channels Television’s programme under reference was handled maturely and professionally by the anchor without violating any section of the Nigerian Broadcasting Code.
It also reiterated its call that every allegation of severe infraction should be thoroughly investigated using two-step levels of investigation involving the commission and the stakeholders, adding that it is not averse to imposition of sanctions on erring stations but advocates that laid down procedures are adhered to.