By Gabriel Ewepu
The minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Thursday, disclosed that broadcast stations that air hate speech and inciting comments will attract N5 million fine.
Mohammed stated this during the inauguration of 7-man Implementation Reforms Committee of the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, towards repositioning the broadcast industry.
According to the Minister the reforms are part of the recommendations of a committee which was earlier set up on the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari following unprofessional and unethical conducts of some broadcast stations in the country, especially before and during the last general elections.
He also explained that upward review of fines from N500, 000 to N5 million is for breaches relating to hate speeches, inciting comments and indecency; willful repeat of infractions on three occasions after levying fine on a station to attract suspension of license; upgrade of breach of political comments relating to hate speeches and divisive comments to ”Class A” offence in the Broadcasting Code and the amendment of the NBC Act to enable NBC license WebTv and radio stations, including foreign broadcasters beaming signals into Nigeria.
He also stated that the approved recommendations also include the independence of the NBC from political interference in the exercise of its regulatory powers, particularly with respect to the issuance and withdrawal of broadcasting license; recruitment of more monitoring staff for the NBC, as currently there are only about 200 Staff monitoring about 1,000 radio and television stations; deployment of adequate monitoring equipment and technologies for the NBC and the enhancement of welfare packages of NBC staff to avoid their compromise in the line of duty.
The Terms of Reference of the Implementation Committee, as listed by the Minister, include to immediately commence work on all statutory, legal and regulatory framework for further legislative action on the review of the NBC Act by the National Assembly; to immediately assess and propose equipment, materials and training needed to make the NBC a modern and well-positioned regulator and to liaise with relevant agencies to ensure the provision of the manpower needs of the Commission to enable it function optimally.
He also said the Committee is to immediately establish and publicize a new sanctioning, fines and penalty regime that is in line with international best practice, promote professionalism and serve as a deterrent to erring practitioners against misconduct, especially hate speech, violence and spread of fake news.
The Committee is also saddled with the responsibility of establishing and publishing a new regulation for the licensing of Web and Internet broadcasters/International broadcasters in Nigeria, in addition to ending all forms of monopoly detrimental to the actualization of the immense potential of the broadcast industry.
The Committee is chaired by the Director, Broadcast Monitoring of NBC, Prof. Armstrong Idachaba, while the Chief Press Secretary, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, Mr. Joe Mutah, will serve as Secretary.
Other members are Sir Godfrey Ohuabunwa, Acting Chairman of the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON); Mr. J.K. Ehicheoya, Esq, Director, Legal Services, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture; Hajia Binta Adamu Bello, Secretary General, Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON); Mr. Ibrahim Jimoh, Director of Administration, Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria; Hon. Agbo Kingsley Ndubuisi, Board Member, NBC, as members.
Meanwhile, the Committee has six weeks to submit its report.