By Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja
The federal government has approved recommendations to review the National Broadcasting Code and extant broadcasting laws.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said on Thursday that the measure was to insulate the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) from undue political interference and exercise its regulatory powers, particularly with respect to the issuance and withdrawal of broadcasting license.
The review of the National Broadcasting Code and extant broadcasting
laws will now reflect the review of fines to be paid by erring broadcasting stations from N500,000 to N5 million for breaches relating to hate speeches, inciting comments and indecency.
In the same light, government also warned that wilful repeat of infractions on three occasions after imposing the fine on a station will lead to the suspension of the licence.
It has also appointed a seven man reform implementation committee headed by Prof. Armstrong Idachaba, Director of Monitoring of the NBC, to design the framework for the implementation.
Mohammed said the recommendations to strengthen the NBC’s regulatory role
were submitted on April 24, 2019 by a five man committee, inaugurated on April 10, 2019, after President Buhari at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting on March 27, 2019, directed an inquiry into the conduct of some broadcast stations before and during the last general elections.
The minister said the committee submitted 26 recommendations, approved by the President.
Some of the recommendations include the upgrade of breach of political comments relating to hate speeches and divisive comments to ”Class A” offence in the Broadcasting Code.
Others are the amendment of the NBC Act to enable NBC license WebTv and radio
stations, including foreign broadcasters beaming signals into the country and the recruitment of more monitoring staff for the NBC, which presently has only about 200 staff monitoring about 1,000 radio and television stations and deployment of adequate monitoring equipment and technologies for the NBC.
Another recommendation is the enhancement of welfare packages of NBC staff to avoid their compromise in the line of duty.
The committee, which has six weeks to submit its report, also has as members, the Acting Chairman of the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON), Godfrey Ohuabunwa; the Director, Legal Services, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, J.K. Ehicheoya; the Secretary, Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON), Hajia Binta Adamu Bello; the Director of Administration, FRCN, Ibrahim Jimoh; Board Member, NBC, Agbo Kingsley Ndubuisi and Chief Press Secretary, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, Joe Mutah.
Among others, its terms of reference to immediately commence work on all statutory, legal and regulatory framework for further legislative action on the review of the NBC Act by the National Assembly, establish and publicize a new sanctioning, fines
and penalty regime to deter erring practitioners against misconduct, and to end all forms of monopoly detrimental to the actualization of the immense potential of the broadcast industry.