The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has fined a total of 45 radio and television stations across Nigeria various amounts for violating the Electoral Act and the Nigeria Broadcasting Code during the February 23, 2019 presidential elections
The Commission disclosed that prior to the election and as part of its mandate, it commenced monitoring of the 2019 electioneering broadcasts and campaign, to ensure professionalism, good taste and decency in the broadcast of the election process.
The NBC said it emphasized the need for broadcasters to adhere strictly to the provisions of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code and those of the Electoral Act.
Citing some regulatory interventions it made preceding the 2019 elections, the Commission said it embarked on a deliberate training and sensitization programme before the elections by holding training sessions in Kano, Kaduna, Lagos, Enugu, Sokoto and Abuja to remind stations of the provisions of the broadcasting Code and to warn about the dangers of hate speech.
In addition, the NBC said it visited broadcast stations across the country in preparation for the elections; partnered with several agencies including the EU SDGN Project to train broadcasters across the country; and organised a one day workshop on Hate Speech, Fake news, Vote & PVC buying.
It said it similarly set up a 24-hour election coverage monitoring process across the country that involved all the members of the NBC management.
NBC staff, according to the Commission, also attended several training sessions.
Despite the above interventions, at the end of the Presidential elections held on the 23rd of February, 2019, the Commission noted that it found some stations culpable of infractions of the provisions of the Code and were sanctioned accordingly. The NBC said they violated Sections 5.2.12, 7.6.6 and 7.6.7 of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code.
Section 5.2.12 of the fifth edition of the Code says: “All partisan political broadcasts, campaigns, jingles, announcements and all forms of partisan party identifications or symbols shall end not later than twenty-four hours before polling day.”
Section 7.6.6 of the code says “The period of campaign through any broadcast media in any election by every political party shall commence 90 days before polling day and end 24 hours prior to that day.”
Section 7.6.7 says “No broadcaster shall permit any political campaign or advertisement on its facilities 24 hours immediately preceding polling day or on polling day.”
The Commission disclosed that it also sanctioned stations which it said allowed politicians to make abusive, inciting and provocative statements during rallies. It said this happened on several radio and television stations particularly, on the four national networks namely, Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Africa Independent Television (AIT), Channels TV and Television Continental (TVC) News.
It also sanctioned several state radio and television stations involved in these infraction.
The stations which were all fined N500,000.00 each, the highest sum that the Nigeria Broadcasting Code allows, from eight of the nine Zones were accused of, among other things, partisan comments in phone-in programmes less than 24 hours to election; use of campaign headlines on newspaper review; use of partisan SMS and endorsement of candidates; display of party logo and partisan social media content; and use of campaign messages by presenter.
Other infractions listed by the NBC for which stations were fined include political campaign jingle and use of campaign messages in news; political campaign jingle less than 24 hours before election; and endorsement of candidate in a phone-in programme less than 24 hours to election.
The stations fined comprised of seven radio and two TV stations in Abuja Zone; four radio stations in Benin Zone; seven radio and one TV stations in Enugu Zone; five radio stations in Jos Zone; and three radio station in Kaduna Zone.
The rest are seven radio and six TV stations in Lagos Zone; one radio and one TV station in Maiduguri Zone and one radio station in Sokoto Zone.
The NBC advised the stations to pay the fines it imposed on them at the due date to avoid graduated sanctions provided for in the Code.