By Emma Okonji and Nosa Alekhuogie
The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has repeatedly warned broadcast stations in the country to independently verify the authenticity of information sourced on social media before disseminating it to the public.
NBC had fined Channels Television, Arise News channel and Africa Independent Television (AIT) N3 million each for what it termed: ‘unprofessional coverage’ of the recent nationwide protest against police brutality.
In a reaction to the public criticisms over the fine for broadcasting live footages during the #EndSARS protest across the country, the acting Director-General of NBC, Prof. Armstrong Idachaba, said the NBC engaged and consulted widely before imposing the N3 million fine on each of the broadcasting organisations.
Idachaba stated this yesterday on the Morning Show of Arise News channel, the broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers.
According to him, “We had to impose the fine because we discovered that many broadcasters became reckless in the coverage of the #EndSARS protest. At the beginning of the protest, there were fairness in the coverage and broadcasting; there was professionalism reasonably, but there was a dramatic turnaround in the coverage and broadcast the moment the protest became violent. At that point, there were deliberate distortions of what was broadcast to the public; there were manipulated story lines, fake narratives and false graphic presentations on television screens emanating from the broadcast stations. So, rather than help in addressing the already violent situation and aggravate the situation we already had at hand then, the broadcast stations were clearly misrepresenting facts, which were in clear violations of the provision of the broadcasting code.”
The NBC boss said: “For point of clarity, Section 56.2 of the broadcast code states that the broadcaster shall approach with restraints, the use of materials from user-generated sources. That was exactly the problem that happened during the spurious broadcast by some broadcast stations, where broadcasters abdicated their own role of relying on their own reporters who were on the scene of the protest, and rely on social media report and other user-generated sources that were not authenticated and not verified. Section 56.5 states that the broadcaster shall ensure that news materials sent in by the public are vetted to ensure editorial responsibility. All these were violated during the #EndSARS protest coverage.”
Although Arise News said what was broadcast from its channel were footages brought in by its reporters and were verified before broadcast, Idachaba, however, said most of the footages that were broadcast by most broadcast stations were actually not gotten from the scene of the #EndSARS protest. He insisted that in times of national crisis, there must be extreme care and restrain in broadcasting.
“We understand that broadcasters have freedom of broadcast, but such freedom must be restrained,” Idachaba said.
He explained that it would be wrong for people to think that NBC would always infringe on broadcasting rights when it regulates the industry it is supposed to regulate.
“The power of the NBC to regulate the broadcast industry has been tested in court severally, up to the Appeal Court. So, regulation is not contrary to the broadcasting code, and NBC has a duty and obligation to regulate the broadcast industry,” Idachaba further said while responding to right of reply concerning the imposed fine.
He, however, confirmed that Arise News channel has good technology to verify news, and promised to visit the station to see the new verifying technology tools that could be recommended to other broadcast stations.