By Emma Okonji with agency report
The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) said it has observed with dismay, the preponderance of programmes with unverifiable claims targeted at COVID 19 Pandemic, and has warned all broadcast station against airing such programmes.
While commending the efforts of the broadcast stations for the massive coverage and support to federal government towards informing, enlightening Nigerians on the pandemic, it, however, warned that it would not hesitate to impose severe sanctions on any station that allows unverifiable claims on its platform.
Consequently, the Commission drew attention to an NBC, in a statement signed by its Asst. Director, Public Affairs, Ekanem Antia, that had cited some sections of the sixth edition of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code, such as Section 3.4.1(a), which states that the broadcaster shall ensure that every programme is accurate and credible; Section 7.1.18, which states that descriptions, claims, testimonials or illustrations in an advertisement relating to verifiable facts shall be such that can easily be substantiated; and Section 7.4.10, which states that the broadcaster shall ensure that an advertisement is not broadcast if it contains any offer to diagnose or treat conditions by myth, superstitious beliefs and practice.
According to the statement; “The coronavirus has been declared a global pandemic and no station shall allow its platform to be used to undermine the seriousness of the virus, and all broadcast stations are responsible for all contents that they transmit.”
Meanwhile, Antia said; “In compliance with the directives of the Commission for Pay TV to decrypt signals of local channels on their platforms for one month, in the first instance, to enable viewers get adequate information and directives through this period of the COVID-19 Pandemic, FreeTV has announced unrestricted access for customers during the lockdown.”
Confirming it, a management staff of FreeTV, Olumade Adesemowo, said FreeTV would be providing unrestricted viewing access to all its customers from April 4th to May 30th, 2020, in line with the federal government’s directive on measures to curtail the spread of the COViD-19 pandemic.
Explaining how customers could benefit from the unrestricted access viewing, Adesemowo said; “If you are a new or existing FreeTV customer, you will get two extra months of access, but if your FreeTV has been inactive for any period of time, just switch on your box to get access for the next two months, at no cost.
“In addition to over 35 digital quality channels, we are also providing customers with regular. reliable and verified news updates on COVID-19 via our FreeTV information services feature from government bodies, which include Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC); Federal Ministry of Health; Federal Ministry of Information; and Nigerian Police Force. We are doing our part and hope you are doing yours. Stay home, stay safe, stay entertained and stay informed with FreeTV.”
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, recently said the spike in fake news and misinformation, despite repeated caution by the government, was distracting the fight against the COVID-19.
The minister had said the government was particularly worried about unverified local therapies circulating in the social media as cure to COVID-19, when in actual fact, no known cure has been developed for the disease.
“If you go by Whatsapp platform, there are so many myths and cure for COVID-19 today. “Some people will tell you, it cannot affect Africans or the disease is not even existing at all while some will say, all you need to do is to take garlic, take ginger.
“As we speak today, there is no vaccine or medicine for COVID-19. The only weapon to combat the virus is what we called Non-Pharmaceutical Intervention (NPI), which are largely sensitisation, advocacy, keeping very good hygiene, social distancing, not shaking hands and no gathering.
“These are the only effective ways to contain the pandemic and that is why governments are declaring total lockdown.
“Once it starts spreading, no healthcare in the world can survive it,” he had warned.