FG unveils amendment to 6th Edition of Broadcasting Code

By Oluwaseun Sonde

The Federal Government has unveiled new amendment to the 6th Edition of the Broadcasting Code which was approved by President Muhammed Buhari to reposit the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) in performing its regulatory role better, which are mostly in the areas of political broadcasting, local content, coverage of emergencies, advertising and anti-competitive behaviour.

The Honourable Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed who disclosed this in Lagos on Tuesday, said the amendments were necessitated by Presidential directive, in the wake of the 2019 general elections, for an inquiry into the regulatory role of NBC as well as the conduct of the various broadcast stations before, during and after the elections.

According to him, “there are many desirable provisions in the new Broadcasting Code: The provisions on Exclusivity and Monopoly: This Antitrust provision will boost local content and local industry due to laws prohibiting exclusive use of rights by broadcasters who intend to create monopolies and hold the entire market to themselves. It will encourage Open Access to premium content.

“I must explain that this provision is not new to Nigeria Broadcasting. Exclusivity was disallowed at a certain time in the history of our broadcasting. I recall Multichoice sub-licensing EPL matches to other local operators in Nigeria. I recall HITV engaging several local operators on sub-licensing the EPL when they got the rights”, he said.

He mentioned that Sub-licensing and Rights sharing create opportunities for local operators to also gain traction and raise revenue for their services. The law prohibiting backlog of advertising debts will definitely promote sustainability for the station owners and producers of content.

“The law on registration of Web Broadcasting grants the country the opportunity to regulate negative foreign broadcasts that can harm us as a nation. Such harms could be in the area of security, protection for minors, protection of human dignity, economic fraud, privacy etc.

“The provisions on responsibility of broadcast stations to devote airtime to national emergencies: This provision obviously mandates terrestrial and Pay TV channels to make their services available to Nigerians at time of national emergencies – like the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic for their education and enlightenment.

He further stated that the provision raising the fine for hate speech from 500,000 Naira to 5 million Naira. “Permit me to say that section 2h of the NBC Act specifically empowers the Commission to establish and disseminate a National Broadcasting Code and set standards with regard to the content and quality of materials for broadcast.

“From the above, it is clear that it is a regulatory function to establish the Code. It is democratic when the regulator engages stakeholders to get their views. This could be done in several ways, including questionnaire, conferences, face-to-face discussions and focused group discussions. Once the regulator has factored all the views, he takes a decision to codify provisions that best address the needs of the country. This is what NBC has done in this case”, he said.

His observation in the reactions to the last amendment are interests who believe that their singular business interest is superior to the national interest. Therefore, they have resorted to all kinds of blackmail, using hack writers. “We remain unperturbed, because we are acting in the national interest.

“The Broadcasting Code is not a static document. As we often say, broadcasting is dynamic. Therefore, even the 6th Edition of the Code shall be reviewed at the appropriate time. But, as it currently stands, the 6th edition and the amendments,  which we are unveiling today, remain the regulations for broadcasting in Nigeria. Our intention remains the good of the country.

“We need to catalyze the growth of the local industry. We need to create jobs for our teeming creative youths. The opportunities must be created and we believe that effective regulatory interventions are a sure way of attaining this. That’s why we will not waver.

“For those who still have misgivings about the amendment to the 6th Edition of the Code, we expect you to meet with the regulator and present your views. As I said, there are opportunities for constant review of the Code, but please note that this latest amendment is signed, sealed and delivered, and we are committed to making it work for the good of the country”, he said.

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