President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the review of the National Broadcasting Code and extant broadcasting laws to reflect stiffer penalties for violators of broadcasting regulations.
The President has also endorsed the implementation of reforms to end all forms of monopoly detrimental to the actualisation of the immense potential of the broadcast industry.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed disclosed this on Thursday in Abuja while inaugurating the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, Reform Implementation Committee.
Specifically, the minister said that the President approved the upward review of fines from N500,000 to N5 million for breaches relating to hate speeches, inciting comments and indecency
He said the President also approved that willful repeat of infractions on three occasions after levying fine on a station should attract suspension of license.
The minister said Buhari also approved the upgrade of breach of political comments relating to hate speeches and divisive comments to “Class A” offence in the Broadcasting Code.
Other approvals by the President according to the minister are: “Amendment of the NBC Act to enable NBC license WebTv and radio stations, including foreign broadcasters beaming signals into Nigeria
“Recruitment of more monitoring staff for the NBC because at the moment, there are only about 200 Staff monitoring about 1,000 radio and television stations.
“Deployment of adequate monitoring equipment and technologies for the NBC and enhancement of welfare packages of NBC staff to avoid their compromise in the line of duty.”
The President, according to the minister, said that the reviewed code must also ensure the Independence of the NBC from political interference in the exercise of its regulatory powers, particularly with respect to the issuance and withdrawal of broadcasting license.
Mr Mohammed said the decisions were sequel to the deliberations at the Federal Executive Council, FEC, of March 27, on the unprofessional and unethical conduct of some broadcast stations, especially before and during the last general elections.
“The President directed me to institute an inquiry into the conduct of the stations and report back to the Council
“Consequently, I inaugurated a five-member committee on Wednesday, April 10th 2019 with the following terms of reference.
“To find out to what extent the NBC was able to effectively carry out its regulatory role before and during the 2019 general elections.
“Recommend measures that could strengthen the NBC’s regulatory role and make it more effective.
“The committee submitted its report on April 24th 2019, with 26 recommendations, and I subsequently forwarded the report to Mr. President, who has since approved them,” he said.
The minister, therefore charged the reform implementation committee to carry out a thorough job that will re-position the NBC as a effective and efficient regulator.
‘We are now at the implementation stage, hence I have appointed seven ‘wise’ men and woman to design the framework for their implementation,” he said.
The minister said that the terms of reference of the committee included the implementation of the recommendations of the committee on the NBC reforms as approved by the President.
He said the committee should 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.
The minister tasked the committee to immediately establish and publicise a new sanctioning, fines and penalty regime that is in line with international best practice,.
He said the new penalty regime would also help to promote professionalism and serve as a deterrent to erring practitioners against misconduct, especially hate speech, violence and spread of fake news.
Mohammed tasked the committee to establish and publish a new regulation for the licensing of Web and Internet broadcasters/International broadcasters in Nigeria.
He said the committee should immediately assess and propose equipment, materials and training needed to make the NBC a modern and well-positioned regulator
“The committee should liaise with relevant agencies to ensure the provision of the
manpower needs of the Commission to enable it function optimally
“It should work out the modalities for competitive and reasonable salaries, wages and other welfare needs of the staff of the Commission
“Establish necessary protocols for the establishment or appointment of professionals or technocrats (non-partisan personality) to run the agency, and appointment into the board of the NBC”
The minister also directed the committee to end all forms of monopoly detrimental to the actualization of the immense potential of the broadcast industry.
The News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, reports that the minister gave the committee chaired by Prof. Armstrong Idachaba, Director of Monitoring of the NBC, six weeks to submit its report.
Other members of the committee are, Sir Godfrey Ohuabunwa, Acting Chairman of the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria, BON, Agbo Ndubuisi, Board Member, NBC and J.K. Ehicheoya, Director, Legal Services in the Ministry.
Others are, Binta Bello, Secretary, Association of Local Governments of Nigeria. Ibrahim Jimoh, Director of Administration, Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria and. Joe Mutah, Chief Press Secretary to the minister who will serve as the Secretary.