By Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief & Emmanuel Elebeke
The Nigeria Press Organisation, NPO, has resolved the face-off between National Broadcasting Corporation, NBC, and DAAR Communications Plc, owners of Africa Independent Television, AIT, and Ray Power FM.
This followed the intervention of two elders and patrons of NPO, Mallam Ismaila Isa Funtua and Vanguard Publisher, Mr Sam Amuka, who hosted a meeting of NPO members as well as NBC and DAAR Communications Plc on Sunday night.
Mr. Nduka Obaigbena, Publisher of Thisday Newspapers, said, following the intervention, the concerns of NBC were addressed, adding that an ombudsman to ensure editorial balance would be appointed by DAAR Communications, in addition to submitting a realistic payment plan for its outstanding National Network Licence fees to NBC.
He added that NBC would lift the suspension on DAAR’s licence, while the latter would also withdraw its court case against NBC.
The statement read: “At the meeting, National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, restated its commitment to freedom of expression and the constitutionally guaranteed role of the media under Sections 22 and 39 to hold governments accountable, which state, 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 NBC also raised concerns about the non adherence of DAAR Communications group (AIT/Ray Power) to Nigeria Broadcasting Code, despite repeated interactions on same; 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 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 NBC but acknowledged that there were some defaults in the payments plan submitted to NBC, and explained that the defaults were due to decisions jointly reached at BON meetings by all broadcasters to engage and re-negotiate the cost of license fees with NBC in view of the current difficult economic realities affecting the industry. But NBC insists that license fees are statutory and thus non-negotiable.
“After an exhaustive dialogue, all parties resolved as follows: 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.
“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.
“Following the 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 National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, and all parties will take necessary steps to work together to build confidence in the public interest.”
Besides the hosts, those who attended the meeting included Ishaq Modibbo Kawu, Director-General and CEO, NBC; High Chief Raymond Dokpesi, founder and Chairman Emeritus, DAAR Communications Plc; Raymond Dokpesi, jnr, Chairman of the Board, DAAR Communications Plc; Mr Tony Akiotu, GMD, DAAR Communications Plc; Mrs Tosin Dokpesi, MD, AIT; Donatus Anopuo, Company Secretary, DAAR Communications PLC; and Mr. Nduka Obaigbena, President, Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria, NPAN, and President, NPO.
The NPO comprises NPAN, Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria, BON, Nigerian Guild of Editors, NGE, and Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ.