The Independent Broadcasting Association of Nigeria (IBAN), made up of privately-owned broadcast stations in Nigeria, and the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) have appealed to the Federal and state governments to provide them with urgent economic relief to mitigate the ravaging effects of COVID-19 on media businesses.
In a statement signed by the secretary of IBAN, Mr Guy Murray-Bruce, the association alerted the government that: “The broadcast media has been hit both on the demand and supply side which has not only led to cash flow problems but has also resulted in an existential crisis for the Independent Private Broadcasters.”
IBAN, therefore, called for government support including the commissioning of a multi-billion naira COVID-19 awareness advertising campaign in an effort to support Nigeria’s struggling media industry.
Mr. Murray-Bruce, while commending government at all levels, the private sector, medical personnel and other stakeholders for their efforts in fighting the pandemic lamented that the lockdown imposed as a result of the pandemic has posed tough challenges for independent private broadcasters in Nigeria.
He said the industry was currently contending with the partial cessation of production of programmes, cancellation of live sporting events and scheduled advertisements, reduction in advertisement bookings and delay in payments by advertising agencies, advertisers and distribution platform operators.
He lamented that with the current low revenue generation, broadcast stations may be forced to shut down operations if urgent actions were not taken, adding, “We have been at the forefront of accentuating sensitisation campaigns and broadcasting contents in support of government’s publicity efforts on the COVID-19 at no costs, hence a shutdown of broadcast media in the country would have a devastating effect on government’s advocacy efforts and unleash unemployment crisis in the market.”
The NUJ, in a letter signed by its President, Chris Isiguzu and titled “Convulsions in the Media Industry,” appealed to President MuhammaduBuharito save the media from collapse by providing financial bailout for the industry.
Chris said that the government’s bailout has become necessary because “media organisations are daily being asphyxiated as a result of the economic downturn occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
He added the NUJ was constrained to write the letter to the President to appeal for urgent intervention to save the media industry from collapse.
Chris reminded President Buhari that the social duties of journalists in Nigeria include the advancement of the right to freedom of expression, access to information freedom of the press, media independence, conflict transformation and peacebuilding, and that these are prerequisites for open governance and development, as well as the fight against corruption among others, which ultimately serve the public interest.
He noted that “there can be no freedom of expression and freedom of the press where journalists work under precarious situations and are exposed to poverty and fear,” and pointing out that“Media organisations are daily being asphyxiated as a result of the economic downturn occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The NUJ president stated that: “Today, the role of the media in National Development has become more elaborate and clearer, more than ever before, despite the little funds available to them because of shrinking advertisements, and high cost of operations, media houses can no longer comfortably pay these costs and offset staff salaries and emoluments. It is instructive to note that without the media, the COVID-19 Crisis could have gone completely out of control by now.”
The NUJ President concluded his letter saying: “Your Excellency, it is pertinent to draw your attention to these ugly developments and request for the urgent intervention of the Federal Government to this dangerous trend. Specifically, we appeal for a financial bailout for the media industry through the Nigerian Press Organisation (NPO) and the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria for privately owned media organisations in the country.”