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Tuesday 15th June, 2021

BROADCASTING

NBC Code: Iredia Asks Lai Mohammed To Leave Regulators To Do Their Job

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L-R: Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Prof. Tony Iredia, former DG, NTA

A former Director-General of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Professor Tony Iredia has said that Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, must leave the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to do its job.

Iredia said this on Wednesday while speaking on Sunrise Daily, a flagship programme on Channels Television.

The veteran broadcaster, who was also former Director General of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), emphasized that Alhaji Lai Mohammed is not a regulator and should allow the NBC do its job while he plays a supervisory role.

He pointed out that the minister taking over the role of the broadcast regulator creates suspicion because he belongs to a political divide.

“Everybody expects a broadcasting commission to be an autonomous body that has no place in politics. If you listened to the news that has been putting on since, who is speaking? The Minister of Information, is he the Director General of the NBC?

“When a minister is speaking, there is no way broadcasters can see that the regulator is speaking. He is not a regulator, he should leave the broadcasters in the NBC to do their professional duty and then the law gives him right to supervise them but not to take over the job.

“The moment the minister is speaking, no matter how well informed he may be, the people become suspicious because he belongs to a political divide and whatever he is saying is likely to be used against the opposition and I think this is not a natural thing,” he said.

Iredia also said the NBC Code announced by the minister on Tuesday did not pass through stakeholders before its adoption, describing the new code as full of sanctions and not to create excellence in the industry as it should be.

“Now the problem really is that for the first time in the history of broadcasting in this country, the code was not done the way it used to be done.

“This time around, NBC just rolled out a number of things that it felt should be in the code and did not hold consultation with the stakeholders as the previous managers of the system did, where you first of all hold consultations and everybody would look at it.

“There will be a dummy, you bring it out at the tail end, there will still be another kind of review and all of that. Just as I said in the beginning, the code was supposed to be a professional guide,” he said.

He added: “It was supposed to be a masterpiece that creates professional excellence in broadcasting but now it is filled with sanctions and what you would do and what you would not do and the bodies that should have been consulted were not consulted in the same way.

“Rather they were being told that it is subject to review and that all their objections now will be taken into consideration in the next review. In which case, this particular edition was not exactly a broadcasting code for broadcasters made by broadcasters for professionals. So that has been the problem and I am not surprised by the kind of headlines that are on today.”

Industry stakeholders have branded the code as agenda-driven, noting that they were excluded from making input before the code was finalised and described its unveiling as an ambush.

The NBC, in the new regulation, states that every broadcaster must license its broadcast and/or signal rights in any genre of programming to another broadcaster in Nigeria if “the genre of programme(s) enjoy(s) compelling viewership by Nigerians; it relates to a product or service that is objectively necessary to be able to compete effectively on a downstream market; or if it is likely to lead to the elimination of effective competition on the downstream markets.”

The new subsidiary legislation adds that refusal to comply will lead to consumer deprivation and stipulates the imposition of a N10 million for operators who fail to comply.

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BROADCASTING

NBC Orders Broadcast Stations To Suspend Twitter Handles

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Prof Armstrong Idachaba, NBC Acting Director-General

The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has ordered all Television and Radio Stations in Nigeria to suspend the use of the microblogging Twitter.

Acting Director-General of the NBC, Prof Armstrong Idachaba, said on Monday in a statement that it will be unpatriotic for any broadcaster in Nigeria to continue to patronise the suspended Twitter as a source of its information and called for strict compliance.

While advising television and radio stations to de-install their Twitter handles, Idachaba said “desist from using Twitter as a source (UGC) of information gathering for News and programmes presentation especially Phone-in.”

He noted that the directive is in line with Section 2(1) of the NBC Act, which entrusts the Commission with the responsibility to ensure strict adherence to the national laws, rules and regulations.

Idachaba further cited section 3.11.2 of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code which provides that “the broadcaster shall ensure that law enforcement is upheld at all times in a matter depicting that law and order are socially superior to or more desirable than Crime and Anarchy.

“Attention is also drawn to section 5.6.3 of The Code which requires Broadcasters to be mindful of materials that may cause disaffection, incite to panic or rift in the society in the use of a User Generated Content (UGC).”

The NBC directive is coming after the federal government’s ban on Twitter activities in Nigeria following the microblogging platform’s removal of President Buhari’s controversial civil war tweet. Last week.

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BROADCASTING

GOtv’s Broadcast Infrastructure Footprints

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By Olasupo SOYOMBO

Ex-nihilo, a Latin adverb I first heard of in my religious studies class in my first year at the university, has stayed with me. For those who do not know the meaning, let me quickly say it means “from or out of nothing.”

How is it related to the subject at hand? Strongly, I make bold to say. Anyone familiar with setting up a business enterprise in Nigeria, particularly pioneers in a field requiring technological infrastructure, will understand how things, very big things, are made from nothing or out of nothing.

To make something out of nothing, it should go without saying, takes an enormous amount of faith in one’s methods and, of course, in the investment environment.

In Nigeria, undeniably a country with a great potential for munificent return on investment on account of its large population and size of its economy, the faith required, I believe, is double what that which is required elsewhere. It is akin to believing in magic. The reason is not far-fetched.

Despite what she has in her favour, there are mile-high odds sufficiently frightening to sow doubts. Current and prospective players in the Nigerian broadcasting industry, one notorious for its high mortality rate, know this for a fact.

Even basic broadcasting operations are tough to set up and run in Nigeria let alone satellite or direct-to-home (DTH), which requires investments verging on the cost of Versailles to acquire, install and continuously maintain. This is what has kept me fascinated with GOtv, the country’s leading digital terrestrial operator.

GOtv is by no means the country’s first DTT operator. It is, in fact, the second, but took very little time in overtaking its competitor. This, I believe, is not just down to the efforts of its sales and marketing teams. I actually believe those teams, like rodeo cowboys on broncos, jumped on the back of its compelling content delivered via the most modern technology, both of which took lavish investments and a giant leap of faith in the treacherous investment terrain that Nigeria often is.

Launched 10 years ago to widen access to digital television via affordability, GOtv arrived at the scene looking like a “me too” project. That was the prevalent perception.

That perception quickly dissipated with investment in DVB-T2, the second-generation decoder through which the signal became sound and images on the subscriber’s screen.

Investment in the most modern technology had been occasioned by the global shift towards digital broadcasting induced by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) agreement of 2006 to which Nigeria was a signatory. This was at a time the country was taking its first steps on the digital migration journey, with the Federal Government aspiring to put the country on the global digital map.

With the DVB-T2 hardware, which is many streets and a few roundabouts ahead in audio-visual quality, GOtv became the first DTT operator to bring digital broadcasting to Nigeria. Additionally, the digital signal it offers meant a reduced chance of signal depreciation in bad weather makes for self-installation and, in due course, also made the carriage of audio channels possible. GOtv premiered the carriage of audio channels in Nigeria with the addition to its platform of Wazobia FM and Naija FM.

Support for the country’s digitalisation efforts did not end with the introduction of the DVB-T2 hardware, as the operator committed further resources to raise awareness for the digital migration programme, becoming the first DTT service provider to back the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) digital transition flag-off in Jos, the Plateau State capital. This was through the “Digilevelz Don Land, No Carry Last” campaign, which held in 26 Nigerian cities.

Of no less significance are its investments in taking its service to locations where there was previously no network coverage, especially in areas of the country where topography inhibited signal reception. Experts had identified topography as a major impediment to signal distribution, with distributors licensed by the government hobbled by acute lack of transmitter capacity.

This problem was addressed by significant financial outlays on digital transmission infrastructure, which has seen GOtv roll out in 60 cities across 26 states. In its first four years of operations, reports indicate that GOtv spent $95.5million to build 73 transmitter sites, which made the DTT network available to half the country’s population. Maintaining those transmitter sites require separate investment, which rose as the number grew.

Between 2014 and 2018, the company committed N8.1billion to transmitter maintenance. In 2014, the sum of N572.2million went into maintenance. It rose steeply to N1.39billion in 2015, N1.9billion in 2016, N2.033billion in 2017 and N2.28 billion in 2018. The consistent investment has ensured that the operator has, by far, the widest DTT coverage in the country.

Compared with the government-licensed distributors, whose limited coverage is held as one of the factors accounting for the slothful pace of the country’s transition process, it’s like a Lada in a race with a Lamborghini. This is evidenced by the howls of dissatisfaction by their users, who are frothing with anger at poor or non-availability of signal in states where they claim to have coverage.

Investments in broadcast infrastructure have also been accompanied by large outlays on regulatory fees. GOtv, in 2019, paid N1.5billion to NBC for the renewal of its DTT licence for three additional years and N50million for the renewal of its Direct-to-Home (DTH) licence for five years. In 2014, it paid N2billion for a five-year DTT licence and N50 million for the renewal of its DTH licence for a further five-year period.

The various sums invested in the provision and maintenance of broadcast infrastructure as well as regulatory levies are exclusive of what was invested in bringing digital broadcasting to Nigeria.

  • Soyombo writes from Ibadan

 

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BROADCASTING

IPOB: NBC Fines Channels TV, Inspiration FM N5m Each For Infractions

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Professor Armstrong Idachaba (right), Acting Director-General of the NBC

The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has fined Channels TV and Inspiration FM Lagos N5 million each for infractions of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code.

Acting Director-General of the NBC, Professor Armstrong Idachaba, made this known in a statement made available to the media, on Thursday in Abuja

Idachaba recalled that NBC on Monday, April 26, served Channels TV a letter indicating the station’s culpability and liability for infractions of the Code in respect to its broadcast of “Politics Today” of Sunday, April 25.

He noted that the station violated Sections 3.11.1(b) and 5.4.3 of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code.

In the same vein, Idachaba said on May 2, in its World Report, Inspiration FM Lagos aired a broadcast of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) making secessionist claims in breach of 3.11.1(b) and 5.4.3 of the Code.

He said Channels TV and Inspiration FM broadcast secessionist, divisive, violent and inflammatory comments.

“Section 3.11.1(b), the Broadcaster shall ensure that no programme contains anything which amounts to subversion of constituted authority or compromises the unity or corporate existence of Nigeria as a sovereign state.

“Section 5.4.3, in reporting conflict situations, the broadcaster shall perform the role of a peace agent by adhering to the principle of responsibility, accuracy and neutrality,” he said.

The Acting DG noted that the violations of the identified sections, being a ‘Class A’ offence, attracts sanctions in section 15.2.1 of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code which provides “Immediate order of suspension of broadcast services; suspension of licence and immediate shutdown and seal up of transmitter, revocation of licence, seizure and forfeiture or transmitting equipment

“(In) 15.5.1: the following penalties shall apply in respect of a breach committed by the broadcaster: light, N200,000 to N500,000; heavy, N500,000 to N4,999,000; severe, N5,000,000.”

He said that other countries in the world had taken measures through regulations and the law to curb excesses including the destruction of lives, property and the unwanton breakdown of law characterised by a negative broadcast of terrorist groups such as the IPOB.

The United Kingdom Government, he said, took action against the IRA and banned it from airing inflammatory and divisive rhetoric to its use audiences.

“Following the announcements of liability to the sanctions stated in 15.1.1 and 15.1.2 both stations have accepted culpability for the infractions and earlier offered unreserved apologies for the breaches.

“Following the announcements of liability to the sanctions stated in 15.1.1 and 15.1.2 both stations have accepted culpability for the infractions and earlier offered unreserved apologies for the breaches.

“The NBC has reviewed the appeals and apologies from both stations and has decided to set aside the option of suspension of licence.

“The Commission has, however, directed both stations (Channels TV and Inspirational FM) to pay N5 million penalty each to serve as a deterrent,” Idachaba said.

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