Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja
Daar Communications Plc has flayed the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) for allegedly becoming a tool used by the federal government to muzzle the communications company from performing its constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression.
NBC over the weekend imposed a fine of N1.5 million on Daar Communications for infringing on the Nigerian broadcasting code. The regulator alleged that Daar Communications exceeded the allowed 150 kilowatts band occupancy limit approved for FM Radio stations.
Subsequently, it sanctioned the owners of Ray Power 100.5 and Africa Independent Television (AIT), claiming it allowed the anchors of its Political Platform’s episode of July 24, 2018 to express unproven and inciting allegations, contrary to the provisions of the broadcasting codes.
But briefing journalists wednesday at the company’s corporate headquarters in Abuja, the Group Managing Director of Daar Communications, Mr. Tony Akiotu, said the recent spate of fines and media persecution by NBC were at variance with the broadcast code.
Akiotu also alleged that the company was being intimidated because of its blatant refusal to pander to the request of the commission to either drop some presenters or tone down the vibrancy of the Political Platform programme.
“At various times, through overtures from the commission, we have been requested to navigate the course of the discourse on the programme to desperately support the sitting government at all costs, irrespective of the glaring security challenges, killings and the pervading socio-political and economic dislocations that abound in the country, which are daily expressed through the mails from the citizenry and the analysts,” Akiotu said.
The managing director said the company’s installed equipment in Owerri, the Imo State capital; Umuahia in Abia State and Enugu in Enugu State were vandalised by unknown persons because of NBC’s flagrant refusal to inspect the stations and allow it calibrate the stations for transmission.
He added that as part of the onslaught on its operations, NBC also closed its Yola station in Adamawa State.
Akiotu refuted the accusation of frequency violation, saying the company opted to pay the fine first before deciding to complain later in public space to prove it was law abiding as a pioneer in the industry.
Daar communications also referred to the contentious issue of licence fee dispute with NBC, saying in spite of its reservation about the huge fees, it had always fulfilled its financial obligations.
‘’As we speak, we have paid up N1 billion as our licence fee for the five-year life cycle from 2010 to 15. We paid N500 million for TV and N500 million for Radio. But we asked for negotiation for the new cycle for our licence fee from 2016 to 2021. This is in the wake of the recession that has affected the broadcast industry. We agreed to pay but asked for renegotiation and for the fees which the broadcast industry can work it and for the business to survive,” Akiotu said.