NBC Board, Stakeholders Disagree with Minister on Reviewed Broadcasting Code

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Alhaji Lai Mohammed
Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture

The Board of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and other stakeholders in the broadcasting industry have disagreed with the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, on the Reviewed Nigerian Broadcasting Code which the Minister unveiled on August 4, 2020.

The NBC Board said the new Nigeria Broadcasting Code announced by the Lai Mohammed is illegal and cannot be utilised in regulating broadcasting in Nigeria. It accused the minister of Information and Culture of unilaterally carrying out the review without the input of other stakeholders

The chairman of NBC board, Ika Aliyu Bilbis, along with his colleagues revealed the disagreement at a press conference he addressed on August 13, 2020, in Abuja over the purported amendment of the code, saying that the only NB Code, which the board and other stakeholders recognised and which they shall work within the setting of operating policies and standards for the NBC, was the 6th edition of the Broadcasting Code, which was launched in 2019 in Kano.

The Information and Culture Minister had in his remarks at the unveiling of the Reviewed Broadcasting Code in Lagos disclosed that the Federal Government had raised the fine for hate speech from N500,000 to 5 million Naira. He said the amendments were necessitated by a Presidential directive in the wake of the 2019 general elections for an inquiry into the regulatory role of the National Broadcasting Commission as well as the conduct of the various broadcast stations before, during and after elections.

Saying that section 2h of the NBC Act empowers the Commission to establish and disseminate a National Broadcasting Code, the Minister said there are many desirable provisions in the new Broadcasting Code including the provisions on Exclusivity and Monopoly, which he said will boost local content and local industry due to laws prohibiting exclusive use of rights by broadcasters who intend to create monopolies and hold the entire market to themselves. This, he added, will encourage Open Access to premium content.

He also pointed out that the law prohibiting backlog of advertising debts will definitely promote sustainability for the station owners and producers of content.

In addition, Alhaji Mohammed said: “The law on the registration of Web Broadcasting grants the country the opportunity to regulate negative foreign broadcasts that can harm us as a nation. Such harms could be in the area of security, protection for minors, protection of human dignity, economic fraud, privacy etc.”

In disagreeing with the Minister of Information and Culture, the NBC board also stated that 55 institutions and stakeholders including the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON), Independent Broadcast Association of Nigeria (IBAN), private media outfits, broadcasters, notable media Intellectuals, communication experts, including Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, in different letters to the board, had also vehemently rejected the new code.

The Board of the NBC said it “wishes to make it quite clear that as long as it is in place, the only NB Code that we recognise and which we shall work within the setting of operating policies and standards for the NBC is the 6th edition of the NB Code, which was launched in 2019 in Kano. Any other purported review has no board endorsement and therefore cannot be utilised in regulating broadcasting in Nigeria.”

‘’The danger of allowing the unilateral amendment of the NB Code to stand is that investors in the industry will lose confidence in the stability the broadcast ecosystem has enjoyed till date before the advent of the current Minister of Information.

‘’Our President and his team have worked so hard to galvanise local and foreign investment in Nigeria. Allowing obnoxious policies to take root in our Investment Culture will spell doom for creativity, enterprise, diversity and the general development of broadcasting in Nigeria.”

The Board members stated that some members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) made observations to the Minister of Information at one of its meetings that during the 2019 general elections, some broadcast media engaged in divisive broadcasts before, during and after the elections and stressed on the need to strengthen the operations of the NBC to avert such future occurrence.

This ‘’noble observation’’ of the President, according to the board, was ‘’unfortunately misunderstood’’ by the Minister of Information who instead of studying and following the law, relevant rules and regulations, and direct the appropriate authorities as stipulated by the Law to act on, erroneously embarked on the review alone.

The board added, ‘’The Honourable Minister’s version of the revised NB Code does not meet any known criteria of due process and inclusiveness of stakeholders, pointing out that there were very serious and disturbing amendments which have been unilaterally carried out by the Minister and which have attracted very critical comments with threats of litigation from concerned organisations and individuals.

The board said that the very controversial portions of the purported amended code certainly aims at destroying hard work and enterprises and aims at taking people’s freedom and intellectual property and depriving hard-working entrepreneurs to empower new entrants who have not cut their teeth.