NBC Fines DSTV, TSTV, NTA, Trust TV N20m over Documentary on Banditry

•IPC slams FG over penalties

Oluchi Chibuzor

The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has imposed a fine of N5 million each on Multichoice Nigeria Limited, owners of DSTV, TelCom Satellite Limited (TSTV) and NTA-Startimes Limited for broadcasting a documentary by the BBC Africa Eye titled, “Bandits Warlords of Zamfara.”

In addition, Trust Television Network (Trust TV) was also fined N5 million for the broadcast of another documentary titled, “Nigeria’s Banditry: The Inside Story,” which was aired by the station on March 5, 2022.

The NBC disclosed this in a statement titled, ‘NBC Sanction PayTV Platforms,’ issued yesterday and signed by its Director-General, Balarabe Shehu Illela.

Last Thursday, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, had said the federal government would sanction Trust TV and BBC for, “terrorism glorification” in their documentaries.

Mohammed had said the federal government was aware of the “unprofessional” documentary by the BBC Africa Eye, where interviews were granted to bandit warlords and terror gangs, thereby promoting “terror” in the country.

While appreciating the need of educating, informing, and enlightening the public on issues bordering on developments and happenings within and outside the country, the commission advised broadcasters to be circumspect and deliberate in the choice and carriage of contents deleterious to Nigeria’s national security.

Consequently, the NBC said airing and carriage of the documentaries contravened the provisions of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code, Sixth edition.

The relevant sections cited include “3.1.1 which states that, “No broadcast shall encourage or incite to crime. lead to public disorder or hate, be repugnant to public feelings or contain offensive reference to any person or organisation, alive or dead or generally be disrespectful to human dignity

“3.12.2: The broadcaster shall not transmit a programme that incites or likely to incite to violence among the populace, causing mass panic, political and social upheaval, security breach and general social disorder; and

“3.11.2: The broadcaster shall ensure that law enforcement is upheld at all times in a manner depicting that law and order are socially superior to, or more desirable than crime or anarchy.”

The NBC said the imposed penalties on the broadcast media platforms and station was to be remitted not later than August 30, 2022. It said failure to comply would lead to the imposition of a higher sanction as provided in the Code.

The NBC enjoined broadcasters to be instruments of national unity and desist from falling into antics of using their platforms to promote and glamorise subversive elements and their activities.

“Please note that every broadcast station or platform is responsible for the content it transmits or transmitted on its platform, and shall be held liable for any content in violation of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code,” the commission added.

Meanwhile, the International Press Centre (IPC) yesterday expressed disappointment with the NBC over the N5 million fine slammed on Trust Television Network and other media outfits.

The IPC, in a statement by its Press Freedom Officer, Melody Lawal, described the development as an “arbitrary fine.’

She reminded the federal government, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, and the NBC that the banditry ravaging Nigeria and putting the lives and property of the citizens in jeopardy was not a creation of the media.

The IPC called on the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria, the Nigerian Guild of Editors, the Nigeria Union of Journalists and other professional bodies championing freedom of the press and freedom of expression in the country to, “rise in unison in condemnation of this new development and hostility by the government.”

“In the circumstance, the IPC considers the fine imposed on Trust TV an act of injustice, an assault on media freedom and a violation of the right of the people to know the truth about the dynamics of banditry in the country and the decision should therefore be reversed,” the statement quoted the Executive Director of the IPC, Lanre Arogundade, as speaking.

The statement read, “Following the threat by the Information Minister, Mr. Lai Mohammed, that the TV station and the BBC would be sanctioned for airing the documentary, the IPC had issued a statement warning the federal government to refrain from constituting itself to the accuser, the prosecutor and the judge in its own case.

“The IPC is dismayed that the federal government through the NBC had shamefully done that, forgetting that in a democracy, the basic tenets of the rule of law cannot be trampled upon as it suits the whims and caprices of those in the corridors of power.

“In the above context, it is worth pointing out that Trust TV was neither notified of the alleged infringement of sections 3.1.1, 3.12.2 and 3.11. 2 of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code nor requested to defend itself against the allegations before the fine was handed down. In other words, there was no fair hearing for Trust TV, but one-sided hearing of the accusation by the Information Minister upon which the NBC acted.

“It is unacceptable that NBC, funded by tax payers money and expected to act in the public interest, would continuously exhibit the symptoms of an attack dog of the government once the Information Minister blows the whistle.”

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