National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has opposed the proposed establishment of a Council for the regulation and conduct of the practice of broadcasting in Nigeria. But stakeholders in the broadcast industry affirmed the suitability and relevance of the proposed council in the face of perceived inadequacies of the NBC.
The director-general of the agency, Balarabe Ilelah in his presentation before the House of Representatives on Information, National Orientation, Ethics and Values, said while a lot of things needed improvement as far as regulating the industry was concerned, the right steps to take would be to strengthen the NBC with more powers so as to enable it perform effectively rather than duplicate its functions in another statutory body.
Ilelah said the proposed Council would usurp the existing responsibilities of NBC as an industry regulator.
“We observed that the bill intends to regulate the practice of broadcasting in Nigeria. Therefore, the Commission recommends that there is no need for the bill because there cannot be two statutory regulatory bodies for broadcasting.
“Section 1(e) should read ‘regulating professional conduct of broadcasting practitioners’. There shall be replacement of the phrase ‘broadcasting profession’ with
‘broadcasting practitioners’ and any other similar phrase in the bill. There shall be deletion of ‘controlling’ and ‘regulating,” he observed.
A former director-general of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Prof. Tony Iredia, in his presentation said the bill is talking about empowering broadcasters to regulate themselves according to international best practices.
“We are talking about looking for the ideal of regulation. The ideal by international standards is self-regulation. We need to look at a bill that is talking about how broadcasters can regulate themselves, not how corporate bodies can regulate themselves. The media is no longer owned by the media alone. When NTA was established, it was the only authority in Nigeria when the NBC now came up in 1992, it was given powers to regulate the NTA that had been a monopoly and the NTA law was amended accordingly.
“There is nothing wrong in amending the NBC Act. In fact, it is better to do so. Unfortunately, NBC as a body has not even given us any hope of being in a position to regulate broadcasters because NBC said itself is at variance with the law setting it up. The law that sets up NBC says that it shall compile and request for licenses and set up for presidential approval (section 2 of their law).
“Section 9 of their law tells them that they have power to grant. You cannot have power to grant and be compelling for somebody to grant. So the NBC Act is already a misconception, who does what, when, where and how,” Iredia argued.
The general secretary of the Radio, Television &Theatre Arts Workers Union (RATAWU), Akpauso Akpauso, who supported the proposed Council, said, “Often time, the profession is being infiltrated by quacks who have little or no knowledge of professional broadcasting – therefore, the need for the establishment of a professional body backed by an Act of Parliament in broadcast sector to regulate the practice of the profession is long overdue.
We need a body that regulates and oversees the professional conduct of broadcasters just as we do in other professions; NBA, ICAN, ANAN and others,” he said.
The Speaker of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, who declared the public hearing open, said the two bills before the House sought to bring about fundamental improvement to the broadcast industry and tailor toward becoming a positive tool for nation building.
He urged stakeholders to be objective in expressing and espousing differences with a view to finding common grounds for resolving them in national interest.