The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has inaugurated a seven-member Committee on the Implementation of Reforms in the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC.
In his remarks at the inauguration in Abuja on Thursday, the minister said the reforms are part of the recommendations of a committee which he earlier set up on the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari.
He said the committee was set to check unprofessional and unethical conduct of some broadcast stations, especially before and during the last general elections.
He listed the highlights of the recommendations approved by Mr. President as including the review of the National Broadcasting Code and extant broadcasting laws to reflect an upward review of fines.
He said the fine was escalated from N500,000 to N5,000,000 for breaches relating to hate speeches, inciting comments and indecency.
He further stated “willful repeat of infractions on three occasions after levying fine on a station to attract suspension of license; upgrade of breach of political comments relating to hate speeches and divisive comments to ”Class A” offence in the Broadcasting Code and the amendment of the NBC Act to enable NBC license WebTv and radio stations, including foreign broadcasters beaming signals into Nigeria” as part of the highlight.
Mr Mohammed said the approved recommendations also include 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.
He further highlighted recruitment of more monitoring staff for the NBC, as currently 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 the enhancement of welfare packages of NBC staff to avoid their compromise in the line of duty.
He said the Terms of Reference of the Implementation Committee, as listed by the Minister, include to 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 to immediately assess and propose equipment, materials and training needed to make the NBC a modern and well-positioned regulator and to liaise with relevant agencies to ensure the provision of the manpower needs of the Commission to enable it function optimally.
He said the Committee is also to immediately establish and publicize a new sanctioning, fines and penalty regime that is in line with international best practice, promote professionalism and serve as a
deterrent to erring practitioners against misconduct, especially hate speech, violence and spread of fake news.
The Committee is also saddled with the responsibility of establishing and publishing a new regulation for the licensing of Web and Internet broadcasters/International broadcasters in Nigeria, in addition to ending all forms of monopoly detrimental to the actualization of the immense potential of the broadcast industry.
The Committee is chaired by the Director, Broadcast Monitoring of the NBC, Prof. Armstrong Idachaba, while the Chief Press Secretary, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, Mr. Joe Mutah, will serve as Secretary.
Other members are Sir Godfrey Ohuabunwa, Acting Chairman of the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria, BON;. J.K. Ehicheoya, Esq, Director, Legal Services, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture; Binta Bello, Secretary General, Association of Local Governments of Nigeria, ALGON; Ibrahim Jimoh, Director of Administration, Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria; Agbo Ndubuisi, Board Member, NBC, as members.
He noted that the Committee has six weeks to submit its report.