The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) on October 23, 2020 fined three television stations: Channels Television, Africa Independent Television (AIT) and Arise TV the sum of N3 million each for alleged “unprofessional coverage” of the EndSARS protests and the crises that followed it.
In letters to the three stations signed by itsActing Director-General, Prof. Armstrong Idachaba, and titled: Use of Social Media Footages in Reportage of EndSARS Protests: Penalty, the Commission accused the stations of using unsubstantiated footages from social media in their broadcast of the protests.
The letters reminded them of earlier letters to them dated October 21 in which the NBC said it cautioned the stations on the “sustained use of fake news, disturbing visuals, close-up shots and attacks on the coverage of the EndSARS protests.” It reminded the stations that social media may be sources of information but that it is incumbent on them to verify the sources of such information.
In a press release that followed on October 26, 2020, the Commission expressed concerned about what it called “the professional misdemeanour of some broadcasting stations in the past couple of days.”
The NBC said in the statement that monitoring reports available to it indicate that, indeed, at the early stages of the conflict broadcast stations largely gave fair and balanced coverage to the issues but noted that “this trend became completely reversed when violence, wonton destruction and looting were added to the dimensions.”
The statement claimed that the “stations engaged in the very unprofessional attitude of speculative and unverifiable broadcast” perhaps in the eagerness to break news and be pace setters in spite of the provisions the Nigeria Broadcasting Code.
The NBC, in the sanction letters to the stations, cited eight provisions of the broadcasting code which regulate broadcasts during crises and which in its estimation, the stations breached as follows:
1.3.1 Broadcast technology enables the broadcaster to bring information on issue of concern to the audience with immediacy. In the event of crisis, the advantage of broadcast technologies may be used but not in a manner to aggravate the situation or adversely affect those emotionally involved.
1.3.2 The broadcaster shall exercise due caution, empathy and sensitivity in the coverage and presentation of emergencies, calamities, riots etc.
5.4.1 The broadcaster shall: (e) Not broadcast morbid or graphic details of death, injury, pain or agony; and where necessary, with due caution.
5.4.3 In reporting conflict situations, the broadcaster shall perform the role of a peace agent by adhering to the principle of responsibility, accuracy and neutrality;
5.5.2 The broadcast, especially of demonstration or disturbance, shall be just long enough for adequate enlightenment and not to take advantage of the uniqueness of broadcasting to sensationalise or glamourise the event
- News Materials sent in by public must be vetted by broadcaster who has editorial
- The Broadcaster shall be mindful of materials that may embarrass individuals or organisations or cause disaffection, incite to panic or rift in the Society, in the usage of UGC.
5.6.9 The broadcaster shall be held liable for any breach of the Code emanating from the use of materials from user generated source
The letter said “In view of the above, your station has been given a penalty of Three million Naira only (N3,000,000)”
Prof Idachaba,in the letter, warned the stations that the Commission may be compelled to impose further sanctions if the stations continue to flout the requirements of the Code were asked to pay the fines within two weeks of receipt of the letters to avoid further sanctions