BY TUNDE OGUNTOLA, Abuja
Reactions have continued to trail the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) decision to suspend the broadcast licence of Channels Television station and also slammed the station with a fine of N5million for hosting the spokesperson of the proscribed Indigenous People Of Biafra (IPOB) in a live interview programme in contravention of broadcast code.
A letter signed by the acting director-general of NBC, Prof. Armstrong Idachaba, dated Monday, April 26, 2021, said during the interview hosted by Seun Okinbaloye on its political programme, ‘Sunday Politics’ on Sunday night, an acclaimed new leader of IPOB made several secessionist and inciting declarations on air without caution or reprimand by the TV station.
Speaking exclusively with LEADERSHIP yesterday in Abuja, the Nigeria Guild of Editors (NGE) said although IPOB is a proscribed group, media houses have the right to interview anybody in the society.
The guild said there are cases where media organisations in the country interviewed the leader of Boko Haram terrorist Abubakar Shekau.
President of the guild, Mustapha Isah said NBC should rather guide Channels Television and not threaten or fine it.
Isah said threatening or fining broadcast stations in the country is not good for the nation’s nascent democracy.
He advised broadcasters to always find a way of delaying their broadcast during phone-in programmes to avert such infringement of the NBC code.
‘’For Channels TV, next time they should not conduct such an interview as live phone-in interview. It should be prerecorded.
“NBC should not threaten or fine Channels, next time such a broadcast station should be guided. Threatening or fining a broadcast station is not good for our democracy.
“We live in a precarious time and we should be guided,” he said.
Also reacting to the issue, a leading Mass Communication don, Prof Ralph Akinfeleye, said NBC should query Channels Television and not fine or sanction them.
Prof Akinfeleye said NBC should follow its code but warn the broadcast station.
He noted that “at a time when most stations are unable to pay their annual licensing fee, stations should not be sanctioned at the slightest mistake.”
“NBC should call Channels Television to order. They should not sanction or fine them,” he said.
He also called on broadcasters to always caution their guest against making inciting comments.
According to him, “Broadcasters should always caution their guest against making inciting comments during interview or programme.”
According to the strongly worded letter by the NBC to the management of Channels TV, the interview was in contravention of several of the broadcast codes and extant laws of the country.
NBC said Channels TV was “liable to the suspension of its licence and a fine of N5million provided in Section 15 of the code for its infractions.”
NBC cited sections 3.11.1(b) and 5.4.3 of the Nigerian Broadcasting Code as having been violated by the TV station.
The letter reads in part: “In the programme, a so-called new leader of IPOB made several secessionist and inciting declarations on air without caution or reprimand by your station.
“He also made derogatory, false, and misleading statements about the Nigerian Army.
“This is reprehensible especially that IPOB remains a proscribed organisation as pronounced by the law courts of the land. This much Channels ought to know and respect.”
NBC, however, directed an immediate cessation of the programme and cautioned that “Channels owes the country the responsibility for a true professional and ethically guided broadcasting especially at times of crisis.”
However, it is not clear whether NBC will immediately enforce the sanctions or allow an appeal by the broadcast station but as at the time of filing this report at 5.55pm and hours after the Commission’s letter was sent to the management of the TV station, it was still broadcasting to its audience within and outside the country.