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19.04.2023 Featured How NBC Sanctioned More Than 100 News Platforms in 8 Years

Published 19th Apr, 2023

By Sodeeq Atanda

In 2022, Report Without Borders ranked Nigeria 129 out of 180 countries in its freedom of press index, describing the country as one of West Africa’s most dangerous and difficult countries for journalists.

What the report perhaps overlooked was how the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) had continued to punish local news networks on allegations of infractions against the professional code of ethics laid down to moderate the industry.

The NBC establishment law empowers it to license, monitor and regulate the media space, and met out punishment to any news channels confirmed to have violated practice directions.

Owing to the sensitive role the media plays in the democratic life of the country, it is always a topic of great concern each time the NBC comes with its big stick against licensed radio and television stations.

READ ALSO: As Hinted by Lai Mohammed, NBC Fines Trust TV N5m Over Banditry Documentary

The stiff regulatory control over news platforms exists hand-in-hand with the unfair environment in which media practitioners are made to operate without adequate protection and safety.

In the last three election cycles, the media regulator has sanctioned a number of audio and audio-visual newsrooms for alleged ethical violations considered unfavourable to national co-existence and democracy.

86 SANCTIONED PRIOR TO 2019 ELECTIONS

According to the regulator, 86 television and radio stations were sanctioned before the 2019 elections for hate speech, vulgar language and unverified claims.

A report produced by the commission after an investigation it conducted into the operations of the concerned newsrooms showed that only one zone out of the 10 NBC-created zones in the country was not punished.

Some news stations in Benin, Enugu, Ibadan, Abuja, Jos, Kaduna, Uyo, Sokoto, Lagos and Maiduguri zones, with the exclusion of Sokoto zone, were sanctioned. In financial estimation, the fines slammed on all the news media added up to N11,850,000 million.

Speaking on the consequence of not paying the fines by the organisation, Maimuna Jimada, NBC spokesperson, said, “It is clearly stated in the code, if you are sanctioned this way and you don’t comply, then you get a higher sanction. Everything is laid down in the code.”

READ ALSO: NBC Suspends Shutdown of Stations Owing Licence Fees

In the buildup to the 2018 Ekiti State gubernatorial election, the commission also fined the state broadcasting office N500,000 for appointing a politician as director-general.

2020 #ENDSARS EPISODE

While reporting the #EndSARS protest in 2020, the trio of Channels Television, Arise News and AIT became victims of the NBC.

At the time, Armstrong Adachaba, the acting director general of the commission, announced that “in line with the provision of section 5.6.9 of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code which states that the broadcaster shall be held liable for any breach of the code emanation from the use of material from user-generated sources, the commission, therefore, sanctioned Arise TV, Channels TV and AIT in line with the provision of the broadcasting code.

“Channels Television, Arise TV and AIT especially continued to transmit footage obtained from unverified and unauthenticated social media sources. No doubt, these pictures stimulated anger and heightened the violence that was witnessed during the #EndSARS crisis.”

Similarly, the decision of the NBC to fine Trust Television Network (Trust TV) for airing a documentary titled ‘Nigeria’s Banditry: The Inside Story’, was a big issue on March 5, 2022. The agency made Trust TV pay N5 million for the broadcast.

EARLY 2023 EPISODE

Recently, Balarabe Ilelah, the director-general of the commission, revealed that 25 individual broadcasting houses had been fined for unprofessional conduct. Sixteen stations were, however, issued a warning notice.

Illelah explained that the organisations were found to have committed offences such as announcement of false election results, dishing out of subversive information and enablement of reckless comments through their platforms during the just-concluded election cycle.

“In the course of our monitoring, the commission observed, with dismay, that some broadcast stations allowed their platforms to be used by some guests, callers, and analysts to score unhealthy political points inimical to our corporate existence,” the DG said at a press conference.

READ ALSO: 16 Months, Numerous Fines —Remembering Idachaba’s Legacy as NBC DG

NBC website cannot be reached
NBC website can’t be reached

“Subversive discussions and reckless comments capable of tearing us apart as a people were broadcast freely without proper gatekeeping. Ethics and professionalism were thrown overboard.”

These are just a few instances of media clampdown gathered from media reports. Stakeholders in the industry argue that such sanctions pose a threat to press freedom, describing it as repressive and arm-twisting.

FIJ could not get more details on the commission’s website as it was inaccessible at press time.

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Published 19th Apr, 2023

By Sodeeq Atanda

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