The Nigeria Community Radio Coalition (NCRC), in collaboration with the Institute for Media and Society (IMESO), has called on the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to start issuing community radio licenses. It said the delay in implementging the October 2010 approval by President Goodluck Jonathan authorizing the NBC to issue community radio licenses, continues to be a major source of concern to stakeholders.
The NCRC made the call in a communiqué issued at the end of a two-day National Seminar on “Building Community Radio in Nigeria” held at Halims Hotels and Towers in Lokoja, Kogi State, on November 28 and 29, 2013.
The program which was organised by NCRC in partnership with IMESO was supported by the United Nation Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), through its International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC).
The group said: “This delay in the issuance of community radio licenses has denied effective access to the media for large sections of the population of Nigeria, limited their right to freedom of expression and deprived the government of effectively taking its development agenda to the grassroots.”
The objective of the national seminar was to contribute to expanding the plurality and diversity of the media in Nigeria while enhancing the capacity of local communities to use community radio as a platform for democratic discourse and development. The aim of the seminar was to equip participants with the know-how to promote and support Community Radio and to step-down knowledge and skills to grassroots communities.
Participants at the seminar observed that there are substantial progresses made in the areas of capacity building, awareness creation, and new phase of interactions with government and other relevant stakeholders in its 10 years of advocacy regardless of the fact that there is yet to be established a true community radio station.
They observed that there is evidence of readiness of communities to commence community radio broadcasting with the fact that many communities have put in place facilities for operating community radio, while many others are at various preparatory stages, in anticipation of issuance of licenses. Participants were happy that several agencies of government are willing to explore the potentials of community radio as platform for reaching rural and grassroots communities with government policies and programmes.
They recommended that the NBC should immediately begin the licensing process of community radio by partnering with stakeholders to develop the licensing framework which should be widely disseminated. They also suggested that a broader framework for monitoring community radio should be put in place in view of the anticipated expansion which will follow the emergence of the sector. They also asked the NBC to work with other relevant agencies and authorities within the Federal Government to address any outstanding concerns that may affect the issuance of community radio licenses.
The NCRC was asked to strengthen existing alliances and build new ones with the NBC, other government agencies and relevant stakeholders to achieve a successful advocacy for community radio in Nigeria. The Coalition plans to intensify and extend capacity building efforts to more grassroots communities across the country as well as explore the possibility of facilitating a programme of experience-sharing between Nigerian government officials and their counterparts in other West African countries which have well developed community radio systems and are using them for development purposes.
Participants recommended that in preparing the ground for licensing, stakeholders in the communities should ensure transparency, non-partisanship and independence. In addition, they also recommended that communities should put in place appropriate governance arrangements that will ensure that the communities truly own the radio stations that will be licensed. Participants also added that communities should step down community radio development knowledge and skills already acquired from capacity development activities, in an attempt to ensure that the entire community is fully mobilized.
They called on International Development Agencies and Partners to lend their strong voices to the advocacy efforts by constantly raising the issue of licensing community radio stations whenever they engage the regulatory body, NBC and other relevant government agencies or authorities.
Participants at the seminar represented various grassroots communities preparing to establish community radio, civil society groups, media and academia, among others. It was also attended and addressed by the chairman, House Committee on Information, Kogi State House of Assembly, Hon. Salihu Akawu who declared the seminar open. Representatives of the NBC and the National Orientation Agency (NOA) also participated in the seminar.