Broadcast Stakeholders Call for Strengthening of NBC Independence in Law and Practice

Balarabe Shehu Ilelah

Broadcast stakeholders from across Nigeria have called for the strengthening of the independence of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) in law and in practice, including by ensuring that the tenures of the Director-General and Board members are clearly stated and that they have security of tenure.

This position came out from the communique issued at the end of a two-day meeting organised by the Institute for Media and Society (IMS) held in Abuja on February 2 and 3, 2023, with the theme: “Conversation Between Industry Stakeholders on Issues in Broadcasting Legislative/Regulatory Frameworks”. It was, as part of activities under the Support-to-Media component of the European Union Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU- SDGN II) project.

Participants at the meeting were drawn from different stakeholder groups, including the media industry unions and associations, national legislature, regulators, civil society organisations; media professionals, managers and owners; as well as journalism and media training institutions.

Held in plenary and panel discussions, the meeting addressed various topics germane to the operations of broadcasting in Nigeria, including Contemporary Reforms in the Nigerian Broadcasting Sector: The State of Play; The Journey Towards Independent Regulation in the Broadcasting Sector: Issues in the Legislative/Regulation Reform Process; Government Appropriation, Digital Access Fees, Radio/TV Sets – Shaping a Suitable Resource Pot for Broadcasting in Nigeria; and The Broadcasting Regulator in the Technology and Politics of the Convergence Era in Nigeria: What Jurisdiction? What Power?

Other issues addressed were: Addressing the Liberty of the Broadcast Industry: Trends in Legislation and Regulation in Nigeria; Pace of Licensing, Cost of Licensing, Plurality of the Landscape: What has Changed? What has remained the same? Looking at Sanctions System in the Broadcast Industry Regulation from several lenses: The Technical, the Economic, The Political; and Third-Sector Broadcasting: Contemporary Concerns on the Development on the Development of the sub-sector.

Participants at the meeting observed, among other things, that there is a need to further amend the National Broadcasting Commission Act, as amended, in light of the current global realities and standards for the regulation of broadcasting as well as the changing political, technological, and economic environments in Nigeria since the Law was first adopted in 1992 and amended by the military government in 1999.

They also observed that it is imperative that the regulatory authority for broadcasting in Nigeria is made independent and freed from any political influence or control in its operations as well as the performance of its functions, in accordance with regional and international norms and standards.

In order to achieve a comprehensive reform of the broadcast sector in Nigeria and engender a more effective regulatory framework, participants agreed that relevant provisions of the Constitution will need to be amended, along with the amendment of the existing Law and the adoption of new policies.

Participants also recommended that in order to ensure adequate funding for the NBC, urgent measures should be taken to ensure that the Commission receives its share of the digital dividends arising from the re-sale or re-allocation of frequencies that are being ceded by the broadcast sector as a result of the digital switchover.

They also called on the government to grant full powers to the NBC to carry out the full range of its regulatory functions, including the issuance of broadcast licenses. To achieve this, they called for the amendment of Section 39(2) of the Constitution adding the proviso to it should be amended to vest in the Commission the final authority to issue broadcast licences while other encumbrances in the National Broadcasting Commission Act should be removed so that the process of licensing broadcast stations should begin and end with the NBC.

In the Communique signed by Dr. Akin Akingbulu, Executive Director, Institute for Media and Society (IMS) and Mrs. Miriam Menkiti, Chairperson, Communique Drafting Committee, participants expressed gratitude to the European Union and the Institute for Media and Society for sponsoring and organizing the event respectively, thereby providing a platform for the important conversations to take place.

Please download the Communique here.