The decision by the National broadcasting commission to revoke the operation licenses of some notable broadcasting stations in Nigeria on the nebulous and superfluous claim that they are indebted to the NBC is totally and completely unacceptable.
It is a decision that was predetermined, authored, and unleashed directly from the office of Mr. President and targeted at clipping the wings of independent voices and it is a coup against media pluralism. The following are critical and fundamental functions of the media that the federal government is not comfortable with and these views of media experts are entirely adopted by us in the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA, (HURIWA).
The fact is that for many people today the media are the main source of their knowledge and entertainment and are part of the very structure of their lives. In the 1980s, sys media historians, it was estimated that out of an average seventy year lifespan of a ‘Western person’ seven whole years were likely to be spent viewing television. Nowadays there is a shift from television to new media: when we factor in the time spent engage in other computer-mediated communication (CMC) and mobile telephony, the average Western individual spends well over 10 percent of their life focusing on a screen, involved with media of various forms. People truly live in a media-world. It is important to note, though, that there is still a global split or digital divide between those people who have unlimited media access and those who do not.
This split can be experienced within one society where there is a big division between rich and poor or between countries or different global regions. Africa, for instance, has an average of 2.7 telephone lines for every 100 people, and only1.3 percent of the population have personal computers (Hudson 2006, p.312). by contrast Australia is estimated to have over 40 phone lines and PCs per 100 members of the population (Hudson 2006, p.312). Figures from 2007 indicate that internet penetration in Africa is lower that 4 percent, whereas in Australia it is over 70 percent www.internetworldstats.com.
The government of president Muhammadu Buhari lacks transparency and accountability. The government’s financial policies are opaque and because there is no in intension to infuse transparency and accountability as the core modus operandi and the fundamental objectives of the current administration, therefore the only way to to hide the truth is to shut out the real, unbiased, and raw information about government financial transactions and the way to do that is to attack the media and so it is clear that this decision has been long in coming because the minister of information, Mr. Lai Mohammed has always told Nigerians about the plot of government to clamp down on independent media.
Not long ago, a lot of bills emanated at the national assembly aimed at whittling down the powers of independent media but the voice of the people defeated this sinister plot.
So this is just a manifestation of dictatorship and tyranny because if a commercial dispute should arise regrding payments of licencing fees or renewal fees, there are processes and mechanism of arbitration to sort out these administrative issues rather than revoke operational licenses of media houses that provide employments to thousands of Nigerians in this period of economic austerity. This decision is provocative and undemocratic. By the way, does government pay money for the public relations stories by way of press statements that these bridcsting stations air for thisbsame government? So why the use of sledge hammer to kill off independent voices in the media in bid to kill off their willpower to exercise their functions s conscience of the nation as stipulated under section 22 of the 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria?
We ask the government to revoke the revocation of these licenses now and invite these stations to resolve the commercial disputes the government regulatory body have with them. Government should not be the creator of unemployment.
HURIWA recalled that the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has revoked the broadcast licenses of 52 broadcast stations across the country over-indebtedness to the regulatory commission.
The stations were owing the Commission N2.6 billion since 2015.
The debtor-stations include; Africa Independent Television (AIT) and its sister radio station, Raypower FM; Silverbird Television, and 49 other stations across the country.
The director-general of the NBC, Balarabe Ilelah, who made the announcement while briefing journalists in Abuja on Friday, said there was no political undertone in revoking the license of the debtor-broadcast stations.
Ilelah urged the stations to pay their fees before 24 hours to avert total disconnection.
Earlier, in May 2022, he said the NBC published in the national dailies, the list of licensees that are indebted to the Commission, and granted them two weeks to renew their licenses and pay their debts or consider their licenses revoked, frequencies withdrawn and the withdrawn frequencies reassigned to others who are ready to abide by the necessary requirements.
Ilelah said three months after the publication, some licensees were yet to pay their outstanding debts, in contravention of the National Broadcasting Commission Act CAP N11, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, particularly Section 10(a) of the third schedule of the Act.
“Therefore, after due consideration, the NBC hereby announces the revocation of the licenses of the under-listed stations and gives them 24 hours to shut down their operations. Our offices nationwide are hereby directed to collaborate with security agencies to ensure immediate compliance,” the NBC DG stated.
Other affected stations are Rhythm FM (Silverbird Communications Ltd), Greetings FM (Greetings Media Ltd), Tao FM (Ovidi Communications Ltd), Zuma FM (Zuma FM Ltd), Crowther FM (Crowther Communications Ltd), WE FM (Kings Broadcasting Ltd), Linksman International ltd, Bomay Broadcasting Services Itd, MITV (Murhi International Group Ltd), Classic FM (Pinkt Nigeria Ltd), Classic FM (Pinkt Nigeria Ltd), Classic TV (Pinkt Nigeria Ltd), Beat FM (Megalectrics LTD), Cooper Communications Itd, Splash FM (West Midlands Ltd), Rock City FM (Boot Communications Itd), Family FM (Kalaks Investments Nig. Ltd), Space FM (Creazioni Nig. Ltd), Radio Jeremi (Radio Jeremi ltd), Wave FM (South Atlantic Media Itd), Kogi State Broadcasting Corporation, Kwara State Broadcasting Corporation, Niger State Broadcasting Corporation, Breeze FM (Bays Water ltd),Vibes FM (Vibes Communication ltd) and Family Love FM (Multimesh Broadcasting Co. ltd).
The rest are Gombe State Broadcasting Corporation, Lagos State Broadcasting Corporation, Osun State Broadcasting Corporation, Ogun State Broadcasting Corporation, Ondo State Broadcasting Corporation, Rivers State Broadcasting Corporation, Bayelsa State Broadcasting Corporation, Cross River State Broadcasting Corporation, Imo State Broadcasting Corporation, Anambra State Broadcasting Corporation, Borno State Broadcasting Corporation, Yobe State Broadcasting Corporation, Sokoto State Broadcasting Corporation, Zamfara State Broadcasting Corporation, Kebbi State Broadcasting Corporation, Jigawa State Broadcasting Corporation, Kaduna State Broadcasting Corporation, and Katsina State Broadcasting Corporation.
Speaking further, the NBC DG said all broadcast stations who have not renewed their licenses for the current duration are advised to do so within the next 30 days to avoid sanctions.
The Commission also call on all IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) and all other broadcast stations that are streaming online to register with the Commission to avoid disconnection.
“Broadcasters should note that having a DTT or FM license does not warrant a broadcaster to stream online; they are two different licenses,” he noted.
He added that they’ve been in talks with the media houses for more than a year, but they refused to revert.
*Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko;
HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA).
¹9TH AUG 2022.