The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, on October 10, 2019 inaugurated a seven-man Committee on the Implementation of Reforms in the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC).
In his remarks, the Minister said the reforms are part of the recommendations of a committee he had set up on the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari over what he referred to as the unprofessional and unethical conduct of some broadcast stations, especially before and during the last general elections.
The Terms of Reference of the Committee include immediate commencement of work on all statutory, legal and regulatory framework for further legislative action on the review of the NBC Act by the National Assembly; immediately assessment and proposal of equipment, materials and training needed to make the NBC a modern and well-positioned regulator; and to liaise with relevant agencies to ensure the provision of the manpower needs of the Commission to enable it function optimally.
The Committee has the Director of Broadcast Monitoring at the NBC, Prof. Armstrong Idachaba as chairperson and Mr. Joe Mutah, Chief Press Secretary, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, as Secretary.
Other members of the Committee are Sir Godfrey Ohuabunwa, Acting Chairman of the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON); Mr. J. K. Ehicheoya, Esq, Director, Legal Services, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture; Hajia Binta Adamu Bello, Secretary General, Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON); Mr. Ibrahim Jimoh, Director of Administration, Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria; and Hon. Agbo Kingsley Ndubuisi, Board Member, NBC.
Listing the highlights of the recommendations approved by President Buhari, he said they include the review of the National Broadcasting Code and extant broadcasting laws to reflect an upward review of fines from N500,000 to N5,000,000 for breaches relating to hate speeches, inciting comments and indecency; willful 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; and the amendment of the NBC Act to enable NBC license online television and radio stations, including foreign broadcasters beaming signals into Nigeria.
Alhaji Mohammed added that the approved recommendations also include the 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; recruitment of more monitoring staff for the NBC, as currently there are only about 200 Staff monitoring about 1,000 radio and television stations; deployment of adequate monitoring equipment and technologies for the NBC and the enhancement of welfare packages of NBC staff to avoid their compromise in the line of duty.
He said the Committee is also expected to immediately establish and publicize a new regime of sanctions, fines and penalty that will be in line with international best practice, promote professionalism and serve as a deterrent to erring practitioners against misconduct, especially hate speech, violence and spread of fake news.
The Committee is also saddled with the responsibility of establishing and publishing a new regulation for the licensing of Web and Internet broadcasters/International broadcasters in Nigeria, in addition to ending all forms of monopoly detrimental to the actualization of the immense potential of the broadcast industry.
The Committee was given six weeks to submit its report.