Nigeria joined the rest of the world to celebrate the second anniversary of World Radio Day (WRD) on February 13, 2013. Four non-governmental organisations marked this anniversary calling for the establishment of community radio stations in the country.
The four non-governmental organisations are the Nigeria Community Radio Coalition (NCRC), Media Rights Agenda (MRA), the Institute for Media and Society (IMS) and the International Press Centre (IPC).
The groups in a joint press statement on WRD said: “On the occasion of this second anniversary of the World Radio Day, the Nigeria Community Radio Coalition and its partners, IMS, MRA and IPC wishes to remind the Federal Government of Nigeria, various State governments, the National Assembly and the State Houses Assembly about their obligations to facilitate an enabling environment for unfettered radio broadcasting in Nigeria. This is necessary for our full democratic development and to enhance the people’s participation in governance.”
They observed that: “It is now almost three years since October 2010, when President Goodluck Jonathan announced a presidential approval for the licensing of community radio stations across the country and accordingly delegated his powers under the Constitution to issue broadcast licences to the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), the statutory regulator for the broadcast sector.
“It is worrisome that three years on, there is still no indication of the implementation of this important directive despite the apparent importance of community radio in giving voice to the masses, including the rural and urban poor, to participate in governance and contribute to developmental efforts of governments in their communities,” the group said.
The groups asked President Jonathan to take urgent steps to ensure that relevant government institutions and agencies give effect to his directive while the NBC should without further delay proceed with the issuance of community radio licences.
They observed that there is continued delay in the operationalization of Community Radio in Nigeria. The groups asserted that there was lack of public involvement in the processes leading to the White Paper on the Report of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Transition from Analogue to Digital Broadcasting.
“It has come to our attention that the Federal Government has issued a White Paper on the report of the 22-member Presidential Advisory Committee on Transition from Analogue to Digital Broadcasting in Nigeria. The committee was set up and inaugurated on October 13, 2008 and submitted its report in June 2009.
“It should be recalled that the late President Umaru Yar’Adua had, as far back as December 2007, approved the transition from analogue to digital terrestrial broadcasting in Nigeria, with an effective date of June 17, 2012, in line with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) resolutions on the issue. It was to give effect to this that the Presidential Advisory Committee on Transition from Analogue to Digital Broadcasting in Nigeria was set up and inaugurated on October 13, 2008.
“We observe however that the Federal Government has not made public the White Paper on the report although it has proceeded to set up an implementation committee.
“The report of the Committee itself was not subjected to public discussions by critical stakeholders. It is our firm view that this is not the best approach in dealing with a matter of such public importance in a democratic setting. In the circumstance, we hereby call on the government to make the White Paper public and open it up for discussions and consultations among stakeholders in line with democratic norms and practices,” they stated.
On the issue of constitutional backing for independent broadcasting, the groups noted that the on-going review of the 1999 constitution presents a unique opportunity for the country “to strengthen the role of the broadcast sector in national development.”
They asserted that “The current regulatory environment for broadcasting in Nigeria continues to fall far short of international standards, particularly with regards to the lack of independence of the regulator.”
The groups urged the National Assembly and other stakeholders to take advantage of the constitution review process by supporting the amendments proposed by the Media Network on the Review of the 1999 Constitution.
The Media Network comprising IMS, MRA, IPC, and other bodies including the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) proposed certain constitutional amendments including the demand that the regulatory body in charge of broadcasting should be made one of the Federal Executive Bodies recognised in Section 153 and under the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution.
This, they said, is due to the role the broadcast regulator plays in aiding the development of the country’s democracy through ensuring the effective development and regulation of the nation’s airwaves, which remains the most critical source of information for the generality of the citizens.
The Media Network also suggested that in order to ensure that the broadcast regulator is fully independent of government, all members of its governing body should be appointed by the National Assembly after open public hearings, and that they should be accountable to the National Assembly.
Other proposed constitutional amendments include: the overbearing presence of government officials in the governing body of the broadcast regulator should be curtailed by removing representation for the State Security Service (SSS) and the Federal Ministry of Information from the membership of its governing body; the process of appointing representatives of the different interests groups that constitute the governing body of the broadcast regulator should include a requirement for consultations to be held with the various stakeholders in each of the named sub-sectors of the Nigerian society when selecting their representatives for appointment to the governing body; and members of the governing body and staff of the regulatory body should have security of tenure and clearly defined conditions of service.
The groups said they will continue to identify with the aspirations which motivated the proclamation of February 13 as World Radio Day, to raise awareness about the importance of radio, facilitate access to information through radio and enhance networking among broadcasters.
The 36th General Conference of UNESCO on November 3, 2011 approved the proclamation that February 13 of every year should be observed as World Radio Day, following a proposal at Session 187 of UNESCO’s Executive Board in September 2011.
To view and download the full text of the joint press statement, please log on tohttp://mediarightsagenda.net/press-release-joint-world-radio-day-statement-by-ncrc-mra-ims-and-ipc/