By ADEBIYI ADEDAPO, Abuja
Following suspension of the broadcasting license of Daar Communications, operators of African Independent Television (AIT) and Ray Power FM by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), stakeholders in the media industry have intervened to find a common ground.
The Nigerian Press Organisation (NPO) comprising of the Newspapers Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN), Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria ( BON ), The Nigerian Guild of Editors ( NGE) and The Nigerian Union of Journalists ( NUJ), convened a meeting of all parties to resolve the issues in the national interest.
The meeting had in attendance Director General of NBC, Ishaq Moddibo Kawu, founder of Daar Communications, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, as well as Chairman and top management staff of AIT and Raypower.
Also in attendance were Publisher, Vanguard Group, Mr. Sam Amuka, NPAN Patron, Mal. Ismaila Isa, and NPAN President, Prince Nduka Obaigbena, who doubles as President of NPO.
According to a statement from NPO, certain conditions were set for Daar Communications to comply with before NBC will revoke the suspension of the company’s broadcasting license.
“DAAR Communications Plc. will appoint an Ombudsman to ensure balance in its news coverage especially political commentary; it will also take full editorial responsibility for the use of content sourced from social media outlets.
“DAAR Communications Plc. will work out a new realistic payment plan with the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and ensure prompt payments in accordance with the new plan.
“Following this NPO statement, The NBC will immediately lift the suspension of the broadcast license of DAAR Communications Plc; DAAR Communications Plc. will withdraw its case in court, against the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and All parties will take necessary steps to work together to build confidence in the public interest,” the statement reads.
According to the statement, NBC at the meeting restated their commitments to freedom of expression and the constitutionally guaranteed role of the media under sections 22 and 39 to hold governments accountable, which states amongst others that the press, radio, television and other agencies of mass media are to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in the 1999 constitution and ensure the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people.
The statement reads further; “The NBC also raised concerns about the non-adherence of the DAAR Communications group (AIT/Ray Power) to the Nigeria Broadcasting Code, despite repeated interactions. The NBC then cited lack of editorial balance by DAAR Communications as well as the lingering issue of non-payment of national network license fees by DAAR Communications.
“DAAR Communications Plc. defended its position saying it gives its team freedom to make editorial commentary on issues of the day relying on Section 39 of the Nigerian Constitution guaranteeing freedom of Expression, freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas without interference”.
DAAR stated it had made some payments on account to the NBC but acknowledged that there were some defaults in the payment plan they submitted to the NBC, and explained that the defaults were due to decisions jointly reached at BON meetings by all broadcasters to engage and renegotiate the cost of license fees with NBC, in view of the current difficult economic realities affecting the industry. But the NBC insists that license fees are statutory and thus non-negotiable.”