Nigerian media groups have risen in condemnation of the revocation of the licences of 52 television and broadcast stations, which was ordered by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) early on Friday. The bodies included the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), International Press Centre (IPC) and Media Rights Agenda (MRA).
NBC announced the revocation of the licences of the stations, including African Independent Television, Ray Power, Silverbird TV, Rhythm FM, Classic FM and Beat FM. NBC said the stations failed to renew their operating licences.
The commission alleged that the stations were owing arrears of licence fees amounting to N2.6 billion since 2015.
In a statement signed by its Press Freedom Officer, Melody Lawal, IPC Lagos-Nigeria condemned what it described as “the arbitrary approach of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) in revoking the licences of alleged debtor broadcast stations”.
It said “the sweeping revocation confirms its concern that NBC exercises its powers arbitrarily without recourse to the public interest”.
IPC further said: “It (the revocation) also confirms our worry that NBC continously constitutes itself to the accuser, the prosecutor and the judge in its own case.
“In this particular instance NBC has not only ordered the revocation of licenses of many TV and Radio stations, it has gone further to usurp the authority of the President and Commander-In-Chief and the National Assembly by directing security agents to move in and effect its order.
“IPC calls on NBC to exercise caution and ensure that it exhausts engagement channels before wielding a stick that may not only lead to thousands of job losses but also shrink the information dissemination space.
“NBC should stop acting as a revenue generating agency that is unconcerned about the business environment of broadcast stations.
“Nothing in its mandate says that it cannot contribute to the sustainability of broadcast stations who are having their own share of the economic crisis plaguing the Nation.
For the NUJ, NBC’s action was “hasty and ill-advised”.
“Although the Director General of NBC, Malam Balarabe Shehu Ilelah claimed that this development had no political motives, we insist that the action was ill-timed and reckless”, NUJ stated in a press release.
In a statement by its National President, Chris Isiguzor, NUJ stated: “It should be noted that this wholesale revocation of licences at this critical time of insecurity in the country appears to be a decision taken without careful prior deliberation, consultation or counsel”.
The union further said: “While we regret the inability of these broadcast stations to fulfil their obligations to NBC, in view of dwindling resources, we caution against such large scale clampdown of broadcast stations in disregard to security issues and the attendant consequence. We cannot afford the unpleasant outcome of such a media blackout at this time.
“We call on NBC to exercise more restraint on this issue in consideration of national security and allow for more dialogue and consultation to find a better way of dealing with the situation”, the NUJ cautioned.
On its part, MRA expressed dismay over the decision through a by its Legal Head, Obioma Okonkwo. It said the NBC was insensitive to the harsh economic environment under which the broadcast stations have operated over the last two and a half years owing to ripple effects of COVID-19 on the global economy.
“We are shocked by this naked display by the NBC of a lack of appreciation of its principal role which is to contribute to the emergence of a knowledge society”, Okonkwo said.
“Rather, it has chosen to create an environment in which millions of Nigerians will wallow in ignorance, deprived of access to crucial information that they need to make critical decisions in their lives or to enhance their livelihoods.
“The action of the NBC has only worsened the prevailing lopsidedness in the broadcasting landscape in Nigeria which was already dominated by government-owned broadcasting stations but is now under the monopolistic control of federal government-owned stations, which will be almost unchallenged, with the result that citizens will now be fed unmitigated propaganda by these remaining stations”. MRA further said.
The body said that the fees imposed on the broadcasters for the renewal of their licences should be reviewed.
“The fact that so many broadcasting stations have been unable to pay the license fees raises serious questions about the fairness and appropriateness of the fees being imposed on broadcasters by the NBC in such a challenging economic environment”, Okonkwo said.
“As the NBC, which imposes the fees and collects them for its own use, there needs to be an independent inquiry into this apparent conflict of interest where the motivation of the commission is apparently to make as much money for itself as possible”.
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20 August 2022 at 11:06 pm
[…] Nigeria Union of Journalists, the International Press Centre (Lagos, Nigeria) and the Media Rights A… were among media-focused institutions that berated the NBC for its […]